Our What Chefs Eat series is back! This month we chat with Atlanta pastry chef, Courtney Culver, of Little Tart Bake Shop. Read our interview with Courtney as she chats with us about the science vs. art of baking, her favorite kitchen utensil, what's trending in the cake business, and all things pastry. Check out her website for tips on ordering her custom tasty treats and follow her on Instagram @girlwave to keep up with her beautiful creations.
We want to know what chefs eat. Do you enjoy cooking for yourself at home? Do you go all out, or keep it simple?
I do enjoy cooking at home but also love going out to eat and trying new restaurants. I have a very small kitchen at home, so when I do cook, I like to keep it simple. I love roasting vegetables, and making salads with lots of crunchy things.
How did you become interested in baking?
I was an art major in college and had gotten a part-time barista position at a bakery in Charleston, SC. At 19 years old, I found myself mesmerized by watching the cake decorators ice cakes and intricately pipe details and realized that they must let me try out that piping bag. Needless to say, I have not put it down since.
When did you realize you wanted to become a pastry chef?
I think I became a pastry chef before I ever realized I wanted to be one. The title, 'Pastry Chef,' has so much frill behind it and I wasn't sure I'd ever be that. I considered myself only a cake artist for the longest time and my focus was on the aesthetics of a beautiful looking cake. Over the years, this has shifted greatly for me, though; baking and pastry is so scientific that I have refocused my attention to the science aspect of baking and flavor development. It's so fun to see how little changes can make a huge difference in your product.
What’s your favorite memory associated with baking?
My favorite memory of baking goes way back to the early 90's in my grandma's kitchen. I fondly remember gathering pecans from her backyard in South Carolina, shelling them together, and then baking them in one of her delicious pecan pies. My grandma is where I get my sweet-tooth from.
Do you think baking is more of an art-form or science? Or is it both?
I would say that baking is a scientific art-form. Baking and pastry allows so much creativity while remaining highly scientific. I think this is what keeps me obsessed, because it never gets boring.
What’s a kitchen utensil you can’t live without?
My cake decorating turntable.
Are there any chefs or artists that inspire your work?
A lot of inanimate things actually inspire my work, but if I had to pinpoint a chef whose work ethic has inspired me, it would be Sarah O'Brien—owner of Little Tart Bakeshop in Atlanta, GA (where I currently work). She is one talented female entrepreneur-badass-baker whom has taught me many things, including how to create a perfect croissant. I am forever grateful for her guidance, and friendship.
Are you experimenting with any new flavors or concepts?
At Little Tart, we are always experimenting. Some fun flavors I have worked on recently would be an amazing cranberry curd I used as a filling for a cake. We also have been playing around with candied kumquats to adorn our cheese danish.
Are you ready for wedding season?
I am looking forward to the spring wedding season because I have some exciting cakes booked. It's a stressful time for me, but also incredibly rewarding being able to be a part of such a special day in a couple's life.
Are there any wedding cake vibes or flavors trending right now?
One wedding cake trend that I get asked to do a lot of are “naked" cakes. These are cakes that are not completely iced and the cake layers are still visible.
What’s your favorite sweet-tooth recipe?
This is a hard question! I rarely bake things just for me, so I usually am snacking on sweet things throughout my day while I am working at Little Tart. One of my favorites is the peanut butter and cacao nib cookie.
Where can we taste your creations?
You can try the croissants I've made with my team at Little Tart Bakeshop in Atlanta, GA. To taste my cakes, you can order a seasonally flavored 8" birthday cake from Little Tart Bakeshop or visit my website to order a specialty cake or wedding cake directly from me.
What’s coming up for you?
2018 has many things in store for me including traveling, wedding cakes, and spending more time with the ones I love.
Anything else you’d like to share?
This feature is brought to you by Original Fuzz, the creativity outfitters. We believe it's not what you do, but how you do it. Read more articles in this month's magazine.