July 24, 2017

An Interview with Pastry Chef Rebekah Turshen

So many women fantasize about getting paid to bake, that Amy Schumer made a sketch about it. Please know, I am one of these women. If I could get paid to bake chocolate chip cookies all day? Forget about it. Which is why I was excited when today's bitch agreed to answer this questionnaire. I love hearing the nitty gritty on jobs that so many of us daydream about. See also: writer, fashion designer, artist, shop owner, yoga instructor, etc.

Hands-down, my favorite restaurant in Nashville is City House. Before I even knew Rebekah, I was in love with her desserts. I'm in a years long love affair with her Tennessee Waltz cake. On my fortieth birthday, she had a peach ice-box cake that made me cry it was so good. Follow her on Instagram to find all the places you can buy her desserts. Meet today's bitch, Rebekah Turshen!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I'm the pastry chef at City House in Germantown. I also sell take-out sweets at Lazzaroli Pasta and you can usually find me with my husband Art By Harry hawking our wares at Porter Flea.

When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I was looking for work in Oxford while attending Ole Miss a year past my allotted four and found the vegetarian bakery on the square in need of an assistant baker. My first day was all it took to be hooked. I had been meandering toward a degree in graphic design and just didn't feel made out for it. I'd been struggling and unsure about how to move forward, three classes shy of graduation. It will be 25 years baking for a living in February and thankfully no one's missed those three credits yet!

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Keep your head down and focus on your work.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?

Write everything down in the moment! With recipes there is so much to keep straight! Variation in batch size, application, flavor profiles, plus the constant general tweaking towards perfection! Then the brainstorming, to do lists, order lists, who-needs-what lists! Whenever I slip up and forget to write things down, I regret it.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

As long as we're dreaming, I would save them all up and take a real sabbatical. If my math is right that's 30 days a year!! I would divide it between going to stage at another restaurant and taking a real vacation with my husband.

What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?

I am so grateful that my job every day is producing work that I love in a restaurant where I feel appreciated by my boss, coworkers and community. It is a too rare privilege in the world and I feel very lucky.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

As much as I hate to admit it, my 45 minute drive home. Flipping between 91.1, 92Q, 101 The Beat, WXNA, 102.1 The Ville, or just rolling down the windows if it was a really rough one. Also animal videos and animal squishing!

What’s a fear that keeps you up at night?

That I won't be able to fall asleep.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

People tend to romanticize the job.

What does self care look like in your life?

Eating yogurt every morning, remembering to take care of my hands, bike riding! And doing things I don't feel like doing when I know it will make me feel better or at least get them out of the way.

What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?

Flipping through my cookbooks, old magazines and notebooks is always good. Never stop learning!

Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?

First off, my two grandmothers who were both very talented bakers. Iva Lee Haynes was my coconut cake, cobbler and pie grandmother. Stella Turshen was my mandelbrot, poppyseed cookie and chocolate loaf cake grandmother. Also the two bakers slash business owners I learned from and worked for early in my career, Paige Osborne at Harvest Cafe and Martha Foose at Bottletree Bakery.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Miss Dynamite, Blankets and Better Call Saul! Definitely ice cream!

All photos courtesy of Rebekah Turshen

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Business Manager, Cara Jackson!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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