I’d learned through an accidental slip of the lip that pastry chef Summer Genetti left The Palace this summer. She’d been a star at that fine-dining restaurant, and leaving was a tough decision.
But for a young woman who’d started soaring ahead in her career soon after she started at age 18, the focus it had taken to get to the top was taking a toll. She’d grown up at work, in the kitchen, putting in an incredible number of hours and missing her twenties almost entirely. After taking a few months to just travel, rest and regroup, she landed in Northside; close to home and beside one of her best friends, Honey’s chef/owner Shoshana Hafner.
“I feel wonderful,” Genetti says. “I love it here.” She explains that while The Palace experience taught her so much, the demands of the job were intense. As full-time pastry chef with only one part-time assistant, she’d created all the desserts for The Palace and its less-formal bar area, the Cricket Lounge. In addition, she’d handled room-service desserts and special orders from petit fours for high tea to wedding cakes and even last-minute birthday cakes “for 40 or so people!”
At Honey, she’s still creating the dessert menu — making her own ice creams, pairing pumpkin and blackberry is every autumn combo she can imagine. The desserts are every bit as delicious. Less formal, but, in a way, that’s more of a challenge.
“At The Palace I could create something no one had ever tried before, like a pink peppercorn meringue topped with strawberries and rhubarb consommé and pistachio powder on the whipped cream. When a guest tasted it, they probably weren’t comparing it to the way their mom made it. Now, I bake an apple pie and I’ve got a lot of memories to compete with.”
I taste a spoonful of her absolutely incredible homemade blackberry sorbet and think that she’ll somehow manage.
When Genetti talks about the simple pleasure she feels when she leaves work in time to go to the farmer’s market and get ingredients to cook dinner at home, she grins like she’s getting away with something. She’s proud of all the young chefs she’s worked with, people who’ve achieved foodie fame at an early age through talent and sheer dedication to their work, singling out Stephen Williams at Bouquet Restaurant, whom she worked with at Pho Paris.
She’s concerned about her peers, her friends. There’s a high burnout rate among these super-focused folks who love what they’re doing but don’t have any balance in their lives.
“We should start a support group, but where would we have it?” Genetti says. “We’d need to go somewhere where none of us worked, but where would that be? Maybe we should shut down all the restaurants in town and go on a cruise together.”
Laughing wickedly, she continues, “But then we’d probably find out that Jeff Ruby owned the boat.”
Before the ship leaves the shore, stop by Honey for Summer’s ever-changing dessert menu. Recent selections included pumpkin doughnut bites with three toppings (including vanilla blackberry jam), German chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream or gingerbread trifle layered with burnt orange marmalade and white chocolate espresso mousse.
CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: [email protected]