Published on January 15th, 2014 | by Jeff Slim0
Creative Hustle // Desirae Tullie
Another day, another Macaroon.
It’s Sunday afternoon at French Grocery, a café and mini grocery market located on the southeast corner of 7th Ave and Missouri in sunny Phoenix, AZ. While the employees take the day off, Desirae Tullie, a pastry chef, embarks on a weekly ritual of creating and refilling the display cases with tasty treats for the upcoming week.
I’ve known Desirae since she was a little girl and it’s amazing to watch her blossom into an awesome human being whom doesn’t lack moxie or the drive to achieve what she sets out to do.
After a few days of rescheduling, we finally met for a brief conversation. This is a synopsis of her life as a pastry chef, from an Easy Bake Oven to batches of pastry renditions prepared in various kitchens.
Jeff Slim: Describe yourself in two adjectives or less.
Desirae Tullie: It’s weird talking about yourself but I would say I am passionate and determined.
JS: When did you realize you wanted to be a pastry chef?
DT: When I was 8 years old, my uncle got me an Easy Bake Oven for my birthday. Since then I’ve wanted to be a pastry chef. That’s how it started. I even did “nerdy” stuff like make videos of myself cooking. I remember watching Zoom, a TV show with little kids on PBS, which had random segments and one of them was kids cooking. I thought that was so awesome. I’ve been a huge “nerd” about it ever since I was little.
JS: Where did you study and was it challenging?
DT: I studied at Scottsdale Community College. I’d say it was challenging, because culinary school is usually a two-year program and this program was a year. There was a lot of cramming when it came to different areas of the kitchen. Creating gourmets, pastries, and hot foods. It was a lot to learn in the short amount of time we had.
JS: Before working at your current location, French Grocery, where else have you worked?
DT: I’ve worked at Lux Coffee, St. Francis, Bohemian Grove, Disneyland, Sophie’s, and Tammie Coe.
JS: Out of all those locations you mention, what kitchen do you think you gained the most experience from?
DT: I’d say, St. Francis. Because I was there longer than any other location and the chef was really good at what he did. He knew what he was doing. I like working with chefs who know what they are doing. There is always that one person in the kitchen that isn’t extremely passionate about being in the kitchen. To them it seems like it’s just a “job”. But at St. Francis most of them were dedicated and very knowledgeable. When I work with like-minded people we grow off each other and learn new things.
JS: Do you know how to cook any Navajo “traditional” foods?
DT: Besides making bread, no. Growing up no one taught me how to cook those foods. But I’m open to learn though. I would love that.
JS: Do you use what you’ve learned in culinary school and various kitchens in your kitchen at home for yourself and your family?
DT: Yes. At home I do use what I’ve learned in other kitchens. Like when I make lamb stew I’ll add wine to it, make it “cool”. Stuff like that.
JS: In addition to creating pastries in the kitchen, what are your other creative outlets besides cooking?
DT: I’m usually busy working. But when I have time I like to bead. Work consumes a lot of my time. Even when I’m at home, I’m usually researching different techniques and learning from distance chefs. Honestly, I don’t really do anything else.
JS: Are there any Chefs that inspire your work?
DT: Yes, a chef named Sam Manson from New York. He does things that are crazy and out there. He mixes savory with sweet and does a really good job at that. But there is too many to name and I can’t think of their names right now.
JS: In the future do you see yourself working in your own kitchen rather than somebody’s kitchen?
DT: Yeah, definitely. My mom, brother and I have this idea to open a bed and breakfast but on the rez. I would manage the kitchen. I’ve also thought of opening a bakery on the rez. I think it would be cool. Our family has a food truck. My uncle would run the food truck at State Fairs in New Mexico and Arizona. Now it’s just sitting in my grandpa’s lot. I’ve thought about claiming it and taking over.
JS: What is your favorite dish to create, either at home or in the kitchen at work?
DT: Since I’m always here, I barely have time to eat at home, so I rarely cook at home. I’m either eating here (French Grocery) or on the way to work. But I like making pastries, especially Macaroons. I think it’s fun. I like the whole process of making them. Even if it takes me an hour just to do one batch, which is like 200 to 300 “little cookies” to sandwich together. I can do a lot with Macaroons beyond traditional flavors like plain fruits and chocolates. With my Macaroons I like to combine savory and sweet, like pistachio rosemary and blueberry ginger. Its not everyday people get to try these flavors. I think people should explore different flavors. One time I even made a popcorn flavored Macaroon. There is so much you can do with them.
JS: When in the kitchen, do you listen to music? What do you listen to?
DT: YES! Ottis Redding. Recently I’ve been listening to Sharon and The Calms too. But mostly Otis Redding.
On that conclusive note, Desirae is serious about what she does and does it well. “Don’t stop this bird” as she continues to stream along her individual path as a chef and a person.
If you live or are visiting Phoenix, I suggest stopping by French Grocery to enjoy Desirae’s culinary opus of decadent confection.
Desirae, along with some other friends who came to mind are people who I felt have a “creative hustle” and I wanted to share them with 1121South readers.
For more images of her food creations you can view them on her Instagram at http://instagram.com/dzirae.