Pastry Chef Jackie Lane's Path to the Fairmont Olympic Hotel Was No Cakewalk

It was an inheritance from a deceased relative that played a role in bringing pastry chef Jackie Lane to the doors of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, but it wasn't all Cinderella on her side. For Lane, the path from California girl to pastry chef was an uncertain one. Now at the Fairmont, Lane works the Shucker's station--crafting desserts for the hotel's neighboring restaurant--and preparing the smaller bites for afternoon tea for in-house restaurant, the Georgian. But don't mistake Lane as being the cutesy type either. This gun wielding (only on her free time!) pastry chef has spiced things up for the fancy pants Fairmont, introducing her chipotle chocolate cake and other twists on traditional desserts, you know, in case a plate of oysters at Shuckers wasn't dessert enough.

SW: How did you start baking?

Lane: The reason I started baking beacause one day, I was raiding the pantry at my old house and I found one of those old package of just add water baking mix. I started baking a bunch of them, and started baking a bunch of things from scratch by myself. I made desserts for myself and my friends, and it just kind of landed to, "Oh, I think this is what I want to do." After I graduated from high school, I didn't have enough money for trade school or culinary school. So I did this culinary school class for cooking which really ended up being kind of a bust. I really didn't like the instructor. It wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I didn't think I would get anywhere with it.

When I did my GE's (general education courses) at another community college, I did it with nursing in mind. But after a year of signing up for some classes and then dropping some others, I'm like, "This is not going to work either." So I started looking at other culinary schools in the area. I found my school, which wasn't that expensive because it was an expedited program. It just so happened that I got an inheritance from a recently deceased grandmother. So that paid for everything. It's sad but I think of it as like, I got really really lucky even though somebody died. My grandma and grandpa, used to own two restaurants in Montecito and Santa Barbara (California). It's kind of funny actually because my other grandma used to make wedding cakes.

What's the most interesting thing you're making right now that you feel connected to?

It's the Dine Around menu that we're doing at Shucker's right now. There's three different desserts that I make for them. The sugar buns, which is more like a homemade, feel good dessert. There's the lemon meringue pie, which we do in mason jars, and that's kind of unique. Then there are éclairs, which are a little more classy and a French favorite.

Do you feel like you're at a point where you found what you're looking for?

Personally, I think I found what I was looking for. I'm not ambitious. I don't want to own my own bakery, or my own company. I want to do my job and go home, and get my benefits. That's what I'm getting right now. It's very rare, very very rare, for chefs to have their own benefits.

Do you believe in that stereotype that people often say, where you're either a pastry chef or a chef.

I definitely believe it. I believe in the stereotypes, but I think I'm an exception to the rule. 'Cause I love cooking and I love baking and I'm good at both. I know a lot of people who can't cook if their life depended on it, but they make mean cakes. I know that some of the recipes I use, I can wing 'em, just like you do for cooking. It's like, "Oh, I like this, let's throw that in there," and because of that, baking can be really fun.

You seem to enjoy your job but is there anything about pastry you don't like to do?

It's fondant. I don't like working with fondant. I don't have to do that often because I'm attached to Shucker's. Banquets do wedding cakes and those are the ones that have fondant. Almost 90 percent of the time, they want fondant on it because it looks so clean. I just don't like to work with it, mostly because I don't like how it tastes. It's kind of like plastic. Although for me personally, I have the recipe for marshmallow fondant which is the only reason that I would make a cake for somebody with fondant on it. I'll make it with the marshmallow fondant.

Any advice to home bakers or home cooks?

I think following a recipe is key. There are formulas, but you could always add something to it. What some people don't realize is that salt in baking is very important. Salt brings out flavors and flavors anything that you bake. Some people will think, "Well, salt and sugar? That doesn't mix," but it's very important.

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