We recently sat down with Elyse McGraw to chat about her role as the Bakery Team Leader at WFM Pearl. At a crucial life moment, Elyse had to choose between being a cake decorator or a doctor (check out her fun blog for a hint!) -- we get the scoop on the results.
Elyse with a nature-themed wedding cake; a stunning dessert buffet
Q&A with Elyse McGraw, Bakery Team Leader at WFM Pearl
Describe your role as Bakery Team Leader at Whole Foods Market Pearl. How do you see the Bakery department connecting to the Whole Foods Market Cooking program?
I love my job at Whole Foods Market Pearl. It combines my two favorite things -- baked goods and people. I try my hardest to give the customers what they want and keep our standards high. I take care of my team so they can take care of our customers. We have a bakery full of talent -- sometimes I just stand back and watch them flourish!
I hope we inspire people to try new things at home; I love it when people walk by our cake case and say, "just getting inspiration!" And as wonderful as it is to bake bread at home, it takes a long time! Our breads are a great canvas for many dishes and appetizers.
When did your love of cooking begin? Were there any particular experiences early on in your life that shaped your approach to food and cooking?
When I was 3 I told my mom I either wanted to be a cake decorator or a doctor. My friend cut her hand in 3rd grade and I felt sick at the sight of blood, so cake it was. At first it was just the thought of being able to eat the frosting whenever I wanted, but it must have sunk a little deeper than that as I still love decorating cakes more than anything.
What do you believe is the first step to cooking well?
It's important to have a sense of how all of your ingredients taste before you start. You’ll get a better end result if you know your couscous has a nutty taste and your strawberries are as sweet as honey!
Why do you believe cooking with whole foods is an essential part of healthy eating?
Whole foods are the best ingredients. Fresh, unprocessed, and pure equals healthy!
Decorated chocolate sugar cookies; a birthday cake for her 3-year old niece, Ruby
What music (if any) do you listen to in the kitchen?
I usually listen to Pandora -- my mix right now stems from Cold War Kids, Kings of Leon, and MGMT.
Have there been books, chefs, or people who have inspired your cooking?
What is your favorite ingredient for fall?
It may sound cliché, but it's pumpkin! Canned or fresh, you can add it to almost anything for fall flair -- from pumpkin-filled ravioli to pumpkin whoopie pies!
What cooking tool could you not live without?
My santoku knife and my Kitchen-Aid mixer. I use them both almost every day.
What is your favorite regional or global cuisine (anything from Cajun-Creole to Northern Vietnamese)?
I love food and I love to experience it, so any authentic cuisine has a spot in my heart (and stomach), but Middle Eastern has to top the list -- from baba ghanoush to baklava. Yum!
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster (we're guessing you have a good one!).
I was in high school and I thought I could make someone’s wedding cake (I’ve always been a little ambitious)…enough said!
What recipe have you chosen to share and why?
I love making marshmallows, and these Almond Marshmallows are a fun treat and a unique spin on normal marshmallows. They make a great gift!