Nicolette Foster’s new position as the pastry chef at Third Street Social in Lee’s Summit and Summit Grill and Bar, which has locations in Lee’s Summit and Waldo, brings her career full circle. Sort of like a doughnut.
The 29-year-old Kansas City native finds herself working for the same folks who inspired her to switch her studies from pharmacy to culinary arts when she was a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“It’s been 10 years since we all worked together (at McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks),” Foster says of owners Andy Lock and Domhnall Molloy and executive chef Po Wang.
“There’s definitely a camaraderie in this kitchen. … They were my first bosses and now I’m working for them again.”
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Q: What made you fall in love with cooking?
A: It was the culture of the professional kitchen that drew me in. You have chefs and cooks and dishwashers from all different walks of life and different cultures. … You just learn a lot about not only cooking but life by being surrounded by so many different people.
Q: You earned a Baking and Pastry Arts degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. What did that entail?
A: It’s like having a full-time job for two years. Instead of a traditional college, you go to work for eight hours and it’s all hands-on. That’s what distinguishes the CIA from other culinary schools: You basically learn by doing.
Q: Why’d you move back to Kansas City?
A: I wanted to be closer to my family and also Michael Smith (chef/owner of Michael Smith Restaurant and Extra Virgin) was hiring a pastry chef. … There’s not a lot of opportunity in such a niche industry, especially being a pastry chef. I was waiting for the right opportunity.
Q: How special is the specialty of pastry chef?
A: It’s so special that no one else in this restaurant knows what I do or knows how to do what I do.
Q: What kinds of offerings can people expect at Third Street Social and Summit Grill?
A: They can expect to come in and find approachable classic desserts, but executed differently. For example, I just put oatmeal cream pies on the menu. Everyone had those as a kid … but they’re from scratch with a ton of buttercream in the middle, and the cookies are perfectly chewy. They taste way better than the ones in the grocery store, and they’re made fresh every single day.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to “pastry?”
A: That’s a hard question. The great thing about working here is that I get to apply a lot of different techniques. As long as it’s good, they let me put it on the menu.
Q: What’s your favorite pastry to eat?
A: I think what I enjoy most is when I kind of conceptualize something in my head. … I like to take an idea and then execute it. So that what I enjoy eating the most is my ideas — especially if they turn out the way I want them to.