Erin Mooney takes over the pastry program at Custom House Tavern
Last we checked in on the pastry kitchen at, it was being (he left to go to Blackbird). At that time, I wrote that "Custom House chef Perry Hendrix needs a pastry chef who works in an elegant but simple style." I've not had the desserts of Custom House's new pastry chef, Erin Mooney, who starts her new job today. But from how she described her dessert style to me, it sounds as though she may be a good fit.
"I like to focus on two or three main ingredients and let them shine," she told me over the phone. "I don't like to manipulate ingredients too much."
Mooney, who fell into pastry when she worked at Trio (and then Spring and) under Shawn McClain, had been looking for a place to settle into ever since moving back to Chicago from Atlanta a few months ago. While in Atlanta she worked at the Ritz and the W Hotel (where her duties included running the pastry program at the hotel's restaurant, BLT Steak). "I became a lot more of a perfectionist working there," she says of her time at the Ritz. "I had a French chef breathing down my neck the whole time."
The seriousness of the high-end restaurant biz has definitely informed Mooney's style. But don't expect sugar work and fondant on the menu at Custom House. The menu is still being developed (Mooney hopes to have it up and running in two to four weeks) but will include dishes such as a black mission fig gratin with fresh figs, fig compote, port sabayon and blue cheese ice cream. ("I use a lot of cheese in my desserts," Mooney says.)
Another thing to expect: A bread program. "I hate the idea of ordering bread," Mooney says. So she plans to make it herself, starting with two types and possible growing from there. Mooney is also toying with making bagels for breakfast, as well as biscuits, and probably two breakfast pastries a day: muffins, Danish, coffee cake, scones, etc. One thing not to expect: Cuteness.
"I would definitely say my desserts are not 'cutesy,'" Mooney says. "I'm not going to name my desserts cutesy names."
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that Mooney had lived and worked in Arizona.