When your server takes your dinner plate away, asking, "Would you like to see the dessert menu?," it's not always apparent just what goes into your meal's final course. Perhaps it's a tart; maybe it's ice cream. Whatever your selection, the tastebuds usually start fidgeting with expectation before the mind gets curious, but there's a lot to be curious about.
Or maybe you're one of those who likes to steal a peek through the kitchen door whenever possible. We can't blame you, to be honest. You can think of the kitchen at Drake One Fifty or The Drake Hotel as a chamber of secrets, staffed by a collective of culinary geniuses, their sleeves rolled up, working their magic in the most delicious laboratory you can imagine.
And according to Christine Fancy, pastry chef at Drake One Fifty, that's not too far off.
"I think my approach [to cooking] has definitely evolved since I started at the Drake," Christine says, looking back on the last few months since she joined forces with Executive Chef Ted Corrado. Before taking over dessert prep at One Fifty, Christine worked at Origin, a fixture of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood down near King Street. After that, it was Blackbird Baking Company. Now the guiding force behind a team of dessert-focused artisans at Drake's first standalone restaurant, Christine considers herself part of a team, rather than lone-wolfing it. It's that approach, she says, that yields the most value from anything Drake offers—an approach that puts community first, even behind the scenes.
"The term that would encompass everything is community," she says. And since the area of expertise for she and her colleagues is comfort food, basically, she believes that keeping it simple and collaborative is the key to success, focusing on a selection of familiar menu items. "But created by a collective of people," she points out, "not just one person. I'll be the first person to say that I don't know everything about pastries. I'd really like to work with my team to get their ideas and work with everybody."
Right now, she says, is an exciting time to explore those particular values in Drake One Fifty's chamber of secrets. "We're in transition to a new menu," she says, "[and] what we tend to have the most fun with are our daily pies, because they're always changing. They reflect the people who are working on them a little bit more right now." Also, if "comfort food" has a defining item at Drake One Fifty, the macaroons, she says, are top of the heap—especially in how the people she works with have fun with preparation. "Both of the permanent pastry chefs have mastered the macaroons, so I leave it up to them to be a little playful and creative."
"The whole menu is at a good, challenging level for everyone where it's not overly complicated, but still offers some techniques that are important in the pastry kitchen. How to make the perfect cake; how to glaze the perfect cake; how to make the perfect ice cream." The list, she says, goes on.
Going forward, Christine is noticeably excited about the opportunities and challenges ahead—not just for herself as a professional, but for Drake One Fifty itself. "We're going to try to challenge ourselves," she says, "but within the playful, familiar scene of the Drake. I also really hope that we'll get to the point where I can sit down with the pastry people between the Hotel and One Fifty and talk about menu changes together." It's the prospect of taking that behind-the-scenes collaboration and making it Drake-wide, she says, that she finds most tantalizing.
"My hope would be that, six months from now, we have a bit more of a team brainstorming."