Former The Gray Pastry Chef Has Pop-Up Success in Savannah GA


Pastry chef Natasha Gaskill, the creator of the near-legendary Savannah-based A Squad brand of circles of delight with empty centers, needed lots of donuts but didn’t have much time to prepare them.

“I sort of decided that last round, until I had a space that I could do them continuously for a period of time, I couldn’t do it,” she said. “It’s too stressful.”

Not too stressful to make 500 donuts, but too stressful that she couldn’t satisfy all of the customers online at Perc Coffee: she and her event partner had been cooking since midnight for the event to start at 9 a.m. , and as the queue grew, she realized she was going to disappoint some of the people who were hoping to try out her latest designs.

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There wasn’t much time to disappoint: they sold out in 40 minutes.

Make a list of what Gaskill can cook and you’ll have your mouth watering. Vegan Salted Saffron Coconut Froyo. A Spanish “Nutty Buddy” made with coffee and manchego ice cream, with green olives, dried apricots, cocoa beans and Marcona almonds. Red Bliss Focaccia with Potatoes, Shallot and Rosemary. And let’s add a vegan bun and basil donut with a bolt of blueberry on top.

Lucky for all of us, she and her business partners Matt Palmerlee and Daniel Ray are not far from having a permanent home to deliver their delicious treats.

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“We are working on trying to create a space,” she noted, explaining that they hope to have something in place by May 2022. “We have a few points that we are currently discussing.”

Finding your way to the pastry shop

Interestingly, Gaskill didn’t start his career as a chef. She studied political science and feminist studies, with the intention of becoming a lawyer. After she and her husband moved to Savannah from the West Coast so that he could join the Savannah Fire and Emergency Services as a firefighter, Gaskill opened a recycling business.

But when the city added its own recycling services, it sold the business and decided to head to Savannah Tech to follow her passion to become a chef.

Natasha Gaskill bakes a loaf of bread at her home in Savannah, Georgia, Wednesday, October 27, 2021.

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“We were a very food-focused family,” she recalls from her childhood. “My mother is from India [and] my dad is from Montana, but he really thought he was a homesteader. So we lived all over that area in Washington State. He had a garden of one hectare. We had an orchard. And we raised pigs and had them slaughtered. And then my older brother is also a chef.

They also cultivated Italian plums, apples and pears and different types of cherry trees. There was a dairy at one end of the road where she lived and a berry farm at the other.

“In general, food is just an integral and central part of my life.”

Natasha Gaskill bakes a loaf of bread at her home in Savannah, Georgia, Wednesday, October 27, 2021.

Cooking around Savannah

After completing her training, she entered the local dessert scene, working at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar for three years. But raising young children made her hours at the downtown institution difficult, so she decided to fend for herself for the first time.

“So we converted that old shed in our backyard into a commercial kitchen,” said Gaskill, who worked with the city to make sure everything was okay. “Our shed already had electricity, plumbing, internet and telephone because the couple who owned this house we live in, when we bought it from them, were going through this brutal divorce, and he lived in the shed.

“So I did that for years and did weddings, like these crazy high end wedding cakes. I would provide donuts to a few places in town. And then I also provided desserts to a few places in town. town, where they would buy whole desserts, ”places like The Atlantic, Collins Quarter, Smith Brothers Butcher Shop and finally The Gray, where she would end up working as a pastry chef from 2018 until early 2021.

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Natasha Gaskill at her home in Savannah, Georgia on Wednesday, October 27, 2021.

It was during his time at The Gray that Gaskill started doing pop-ups with the aforementioned Matt Palmerlee under the “Matt & Nat Make Ice Cream” banner. She also started organizing the annual Plan C Cookies for Choice boxes. Each box is a collection of cookies donated by local bakers that people can purchase, with all money going to Planned Parenthood Southeast.

“I really feel convinced about women’s issues, especially reproductive equity, and the fact that women have the right to choose,” she said, noting that the project was a bit of a reminder of what she went to school for.

“The sale of cookies happened because it was happening all over the place with bakers,” she continued. “They were selling baked goods, things like that. It’s based on a model they make in Atlanta called the “Cookie Grab”. It was right after Trump was elected, and it was kind of a grabbing game. “

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The project raised over $ 10,000 in its first year, and more than double for this year’s follow-up, which included contributions from thirty bakers.

Natasha Gaskill bakes a loaf of bread at her home in Savannah, Georgia, Wednesday, October 27, 2021.

“It’s so much fun because it’s a mix of home bakers doing it, as well as professional bakers and restaurants that usually don’t have a baker at home,” she said.

The next few months should continue to be busy for Gaskill, who is attending a “Hekate’s Deipnon” event at Laney Contemporary on November 2 (with seats likely sold out at the time of this article’s publication), referencing the former massive Athenian meal intended to appease the Titan Hekate (and intended to benefit another organization important to the chef, this time The Lilith Fund).

She will be doing a Matt and Nat Make Ice Cream double header with the Lugash Hotel at the National in Athens on November 14th. And she’s teaming up with a few other pastry chefs in the area for holiday cookie tins in December.

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Natasha Gaskill bakes a loaf of bread in the oven at her home in Savannah, Georgia on Wednesday, October 27, 2021.

She will also continue to organize her popular events at places like Perc and Big Bon. It is a format that has allowed him to grow as a chef and offer local foodies a wide range of tasty options.

“That’s the beauty of making popups,” Gaskill said. “If I want to make ice cream, we can make ice cream. And if I want to sell bread once, I can just sell bread. This makes sure that there are endless possibilities of what you can decide to do.

Find Natasha Gaskill on Instagram @natashagaskill.

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