300 Est Sert Supperland Pastry Chef Liana Sinclair


Liana Sinclair moves to 300 East (Photo by Kenty Chung)

“Do you want to know my secret?” Liana Sinclair – pastry chef and goddess, currently found baking rich, gourmet, and glorious pies at Supperland in Plaza Midwood – leaned over her chili cheese burger on a hot Saturday night in 300 East, almost daring us to answer. Here she is, on a rare night off, fresh from Texas, already storming Charlotte’s dining scene, and she was about to share the secret to her success. Maybe I nodded yes, or maybe I stopped breathing completely.

“It’s because I don’t have a sweet tooth,” she explained finally.

The wrinkles on my forehead must have betrayed my shock, but it turned out I was in good hands, as this crafty pastry chef once worked as a beautician.

Long before that, Liana made her US debut on a JFK tarmac, arriving from South Korea at the age of 5 months to be adopted by a Mormon family in upstate New York.

“I was the good kid growing up,” she told me. “Straight A college student. A really conservative family, though. My dad wanted me to go to regular college to be a lawyer or a doctor, which I tried – for, like, a week or two.

And that’s how she became a beautician. “I dropped out of college, went home, then went to school to become a beautician. I don’t know, I was working in a spa, like doing facials and stuff. She could see the stereotype in my eyes. “I wasn’t doing nails, Tim.”

“I didn’t say anything,” I replied, reaching out to grab another piece of toasted butter baguette and a dollop of goat cheese – silky and oozing – to brush over the top.

Goat cheese aperitif at 300 Est
Goat cheese appetizer at 300 Est (Photo by Kenty Chung)

Liana’s cooking rules

We were at 300 East – and we were hungry. When I suggested the location of the dinner, Liana did not hesitate to accept. “Everyone I have met so far has told me that I have to come here.

Almost everyone in Charlotte who bakes, she was told, spent time at the Dilworth Institution, so as the city’s new pastry chef, a visit was inevitable.

As the photographer was late we weren’t sure whether to wait or order, so we compromised and went for the goat cheese appetizer. “God, this is good,” she said.

There was a time 12 years ago when things could have turned out differently. Liana almost took the savory route with her culinary career, but explained, “I’m way too neurotic to go savory.”

She feels more comfortable in baking, with her type A personality. “You know what tasty cooking looks like, don’t you? Throw a bunch of stuff together and adjust it, and it will be good. But pastry, pastry, it’s like science.

“So you can tell your dad you’re a scientist after all!” I interjected.

– Exactly, she said. “I am a food scientist. Yes, you can play with the rules once you know all the rules and know how things work. But you can’t just squeeze the baking soda out of something and hope things turn out okay. There are rules. “

Sometimes these rules are unspoken. When I came up with a suggestion for a certain dish from Supperland’s savory menu that would require the use of a freezer, she backed off like a cat contesting her own shadow.

“No, that won’t happen. It’s my freezer. There are unspoken rules in the kitchen, like about the freezer. And Liana’s table. Someone took my tape from my table yesterday. Can you believe that? “

The tape, it really has to be said, is blue painter’s tape – the kind used for finishing accent walls at home or, in Liana’s case, for making labels.

“She said ‘I just need a track’ and I said ‘Please don’t touch my tape’ in a way that made her think I’m crazy. ‘she doesn’t know the unwritten rules.

Roast chicken at 300 East
Roast Chicken at 300 East (Photo by Kenty Chung)

A meal at 300 East

By then the photographer had arrived and we ordered our main courses. Liana’s chili cheese burger was triumphantly served in a way that suggested the need for its own orchestral accompaniment. She enthusiastically tore it up.

Our photographer, Kenty Chung, opted for roast chicken – a well-seasoned protein plate that was perfect, in his case, for strengthening the triceps he uses to hold his camera up in the air. (I’d be lying if I said Liana was the one who pointed them out to the play.)

I was, however, less excited about my shrimp cakes, which looked more like shrimp flavored cornmeal to me, but it was hard to focus on them for too long as Liana wasn’t ready to set the story. of the blue band behind us. .

“There are some things I’m very neurotic about, and Chef Chris (Rogienski) and the guys in the kitchen got that; they don’t bother me for that. Like, my blue ribbon. You have to cut the ribbon. I don’t like ripped tapes. A few people grabbed my tape. But I’m like ‘OK, first of all, put my tape down. And second, where are your scissors? It should be cut at a 90 degree angle.

“Does cutting the ribbon at a 90 degree angle improve the taste of your brie bites?” ” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “And no, it makes me more organized. These bites of brie are very, very organized. And that’s another thing: Chef Chris enjoys my crazy baking, but he also knows that, like, I’m organized – and neurotic.

I can tease her about the bites of brie, which I mentioned before, but her desserts are really something else. Liana’s neuroses are immediately apparent, and in hindsight, her sugar-free secret is too.

What else but neuroses and OCD might explain the kind of laser focused precision needed to make mini peach balls that are so uniformly shaped and smooth that, if they were made of metal, they could be considered the product of advanced alien technology?

And the clever way she marinates them – as if in deference to the fruit itself, a way to retain its true flavor, so you can taste the fruit and enjoy the fruit, which is only possible as a that component of a dessert which is not therefore ahead of the sugar.

Or that cornbread pudding. Or even those chocolate chip cookies, which look like big hockey pucks. Without bags of sugar, Liana cooks other ways to make those ingredients shine, and that’s what Charlotte is here for.

This was a concern for her before traveling to North Carolina from Texas with her dog Drake. (I tease her again: “You mean you, the pastry chef, you stopped in New Orleans and you didn’t go to the Café du Monde for the donuts?”)

300 East Signature Brownie with Ice Cream
300 East’s signature brownie (Photo by Kenty Chung)

What’s for dessert?

Her early impression of Charlotte was that locals only went for a certain type of dessert. (“Ahem. We are called Charlotteans.”)

The sweet kind, for example, that arrived at our table at the end of our meal: 300 East’s signature brownie.

“You see, these are the kinds of things I think people want to eat, though,” she said. “They want stuff that reminds them of their childhood. ”

And, indeed, this brownie was, in one word, nostalgic.

“It’s a hell of a good brownie, too. This texture! I said.

The second dessert, I could tell, was much more suited to Liana’s pastry sensibilities: a cherry and egg clafoutis with hints of candied flair, exposed technique, low sugar consumption. “It’s like my personality,” she said.

In addition to introducing Charlotte to daring desserts that are less sweet than those usually consumed in town, Liana also wants to introduce new flavors.

“I’m Korean, so things like gochujang, of course, but it’s not really in line with what we do at Supperland. Although I’m trying to find a sneaky way to have yuzu on the menu.

“A sneaky way? How will your work husband react? I asked, using his favorite term for Chef Chris, who insists the ingredients are locally sourced or at least have southern connections.

“Who knows? Maybe I can find a southern source for the yuzu?” She replied.

After dessert at 300 East, in the dining room of this old Victorian house surrounded by tables of people enjoying the food and having fun, Liana revealed more secrets.

First, her hair: “There aren’t many Asians running around Plaza Midwood with teal blue hair. I would say opening a restaurant makes your hair gray. That’s why I dyed mine teal, to cover the gray. It was all the colors of the rainbow, really. But I get random people who stop me and ask me, “Hey! Are you the pastry chef at Supperland? “

Second, a new pie: “I think I’ll test the limits of how comfortable people are paying for dessert here in Charlotte. There appears to be an upper limit of $ 10 or $ 12. It will be more.

His plans for this pie include lots of pecans, lots of Valrhona chocolate, and maybe little sour cherry dots to set things up.

Third, other future projects at Supperland: “I think brunch might be on the cards at some point. ”

This would give her the chance to expand her baking program to include the viennoiserie, and perhaps even her all-time favorite pastry, the butter and sugar crown-shaped saucer more elegantly known as kougin amann.

“And since you don’t have a sweet tooth, maybe a savory pastry?” Like a quiche? I asked.

“This is the plan.”

“I’d fucking eat your quiche,” I said.

Liana Sinclair – pastry chef and goddess; 5’3 ” giant in a male dominated industry; devoted dog mother in love with vintage style clothing; old Mormons and new charlotteans, hated in teal blue, single and maybe ready to mingle, blushed and said, “You’re the first guy that ever told me that.” “

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