After climbing the pastry ladder at a young age, executive pastry chef Amanda Rockman snagged the opportunity to open L.2o in Chicago. There she quickly learned extreme discipline and how to dial in her intention for every dish. Next up was The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago, one of the premier hotels in the world. “This job was by far my hardest,” she recalls. “I was 26 and a sous chef of a large hotel with four restaurants, a large ballroom, tea service, chocolate bar, showpieces. You name it, we made it. I had to learn how to organize my time, delegate to staff, and come up with new dishes for extremely different concepts. It was there that I met my mentor, Celine Plano, who really turned me into what I am today. She taught me technique and the importance of consistency – to respect every element of the craft of baking and pastry. From great ingredients, solid technique, working with your staff opposed to them working for you, Celine saved my pastry soul.”
Described by co-workers as “playfully serious,” Rockman possesses an adventurous soul with the attention to detail of an aerospace engineer. She remembers everything, which is extremely advantageous as she plates dessert after dessert with precision and consistency. One of her favorites is Key Lime Meringata, which she prepared often while working as pastry chef at Nico Osteria in Chicago (she currently is executive pastry chef at the South Congress Hotel in Austin, Texas). Key lime is one of her favorite flavors, and the tangy dessert combines the distinct tastes of basil gel, Key lime curd, coconut mousse and coconut sorbet into one frozen ball of deliciousness.
Keeping an open mind
Her inspirations come from all around: “From the people I work with, going out to eat, watching movies, my fiancé!” she exclaims. “Inspiration is a funny thing. At times the well is dry and you wonder if you will come up with another dish. But alas! You are driving on Lake Shore and you look to the lake and boom, something strikes you. What if you paired orange sherbet with Chinotto soda for an affogato (coffee based beverage)! The citrus of the sorbet would dilute the bitterness of the Chinotto and would be a great Italian creamsicle. That is how it happens for me most the time. When my brain is calm and open, I am able to come up with new ideas.”
Rockman’s list of key influencers and mentors is long: Emily Luchetti, Celine Plano, Erling Wu-Bower, Morgan Angelone, Mindy Segal and Sherry Yard. Like most chefs, her love of baking and pastry started with having a great baker at home, while growing up. “Seeing my mother at a young age, participate in scratch baking is what sparked my interest in becoming a pastry chef.”