Name: Dane J Frazier
Current City: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Current Job: Pastry Chef at St. John’s Restaurant
What is your background in pastry and how did you get to where you are today?
I fell in love with baking in high school and felt like I could make it my career. I decided to go to The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia to attain a bachelor's degree. While I was there, I worked for Lowes Hotel doing banquets and pastry and at Metropolitan Bakery working cake station.
I followed a close friend to Tennessee to open a restaurant. The restaurant unfortunately closed, but I still get nostalgic comments from long ago regulars about how good it was. After that, I started working at St. John’s doing appetizers and salads and doing desserts on the side until a production management job opened in Philadelphia at Metropolitan Bakery. I assumed management responsibilities for one of the largest commercial artisan bakeries in the city. It was a dream job! It had its ups and downs, but I learned so much there. After four years, I decided to ask my fiancé to marry me, and I moved back to her home town where we met. I was then offered the Pastry Chef position at St. John’s Restaurant.
What do you love about your job?
I have the chance to be as creative as I can be! I’m surrounded by others who are as motivated and as professionally minded as I am. Having my own bread program is amazing. I love the challenges of having a seasonal menu and also having so much fresh local produce available to use. It’s really a treat!
What are your favorite dishes or products to make?
Being able to mix and bake fresh sourdough bread everyday for the restaurant is really something special. Having the creative freedom to diversify the bread basket with other items like crackers and breadsticks really is a lot of fun! Also, for some reason I absolutely love making ice cream! Maybe it’s because I love to eat it so much! I just made a pistachio cardamom ice cream to go with a dessert I have on the menu, and it is so delicious. The whole process is so simple, yet it is amazing to me how it was ever invented!
What do you consider to be the biggest food trends impacting your business, and how are you responding?
I believe that simple food and farm-to-table food are really making a comeback. People want to eat fresh and local, including myself. Chattanooga is a plethora of local farms and fresh produce, which the restaurant that I work at gladly supports! It really makes creating menus a lot of fun. On a bread baking note, I’m really following malting, heritage grains and in-house restaurant milling. I think we’re going to see a bigger percentage of restaurants milling flour for their house-made pastas and breads. I would love to get my hands on a small mill but it might not be in the budget for a while!
What is the best advice you have received from other bakers or chefs?
Never give up. Don’t compare yourself to others. Learn from your mistakes and keep your cool, always, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, at work or at home. Life brings seemingly insurmountable challenges, and it’s how you deal with them that defines you. Whether it’s the ticket machine that won’t stop printing during service or the long twelve to fourteen hour days that wear you down, you can’t give up. Abiding by this advice has gotten me where I am today.
Who would you would like to collaborate with in the kitchen?
I would love to collaborate with Chad Robertson with some breads for the restaurant. He has always been one of my biggest idols bread wise. I love Chad’s rustic style and his use of so many different techniques. He takes the use of grains in bread to a higher level. Tartine Bread and Tartine Book No. 3 are some of my favorite books for references.
What is the best thing you’ve eaten lately?
Honestly, I’m still enjoying the end of summer with fresh chopped salads. Lots of fresh chopped greens, carrots and radicchio with toasted sunflower seeds or crunchy quinoa and a citrus avocado vinaigrette.
When you are not in the bakery, where can you be found?
I love to be outside hiking or hanging out with Peaches, our boston terrier. I do spend a good amount of time reading recipes and doing research, but there's always some time for a game of darts or bocce. I’m a big fan of baseball, and I love watching the Phillies and all of the other teams play. I also play kickball with a local league on the weekends!
In terms of innovation, what do you think your generation brings to the table?
I believe that my generation is a generation of dreamers. I think of something, and I try bring it to fruition. I feel that a lot of my peers and I are trying to bring back the old artisan style of baking by using old techniques in new ways.