Kianna Kilgore’s journey as a pastry chef

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“I don’t need a huge chef’s knife or some other cooking tool tattoo to prove what I do.”

With five brothers and one sister all growing up under the same roof in Phoenix, Kianna Kilgore should have tapped into his creative faculties to compete for his parents’ attention.

Little Kianna, an aspiring movie star with a flair for the dramatic, adopted a strategy that put her self-proclaimed “sassy and smart attitude” center stage. It certainly got her the attention she was looking for, but often brought her into the niche.

Kianna Kilgore

“While my fiancé probably doesn’t agree with me, it’s something I’ve calmed down over the years as I try to recover from sassiness with pleasure and love,” Kilgore said. .

Toupee. Attitude. To like. Fun. Four things that have undoubtedly contributed to her success as a corporate pastry chef for Ares Collectivewho owns and operates Commoner & Co., Flora Market Raceand the Tucson and Scottsdale sites of Preparation & Pastry.

Kianna Kilgore of the Ares collective (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Kilgore’s starting point as a baker was at the age of 12 when she began experimenting with what she calls “the easiest thing a baker can do”, the chocolate chip cookie. .

“It became a hobby for me, and I was getting great feedback from all my siblings and parents every time I tweaked my recipe,” Kilgore said. “It was the first time I took a recipe apart and thought of ways to improve it, and suddenly there were a lot of people who wanted to try my treats, which for me was a real reward for my work.”

That was just the beginning of the rewards for his work, coming from supervisors during his five-year stint at In-N-Out Burger straight out of high school, customers as a personal chef, and his instructors and educational advisors. in the Culinary Arts Program at Pima Community College.

Kianna Kilgore of the Ares collective (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

“I was labeled a little lazy as a kid and just didn’t apply myself in a way that my parents and teachers knew I could,” she recalls. “So when I started working in the kitchens, I knew I had to push myself, and that led to recognition from my managers, which then inspired me to work even harder.”

As Kilgore’s chief cheerleader, her fiancé pushed her to apply to Prep & Pastry after graduating from culinary school, but she balked.

“I remember thinking that Prep & Pastry is definitely not a starting point for a baking career, it’s the pinnacle, and I thought I had to find out more before I even considered applying there. -down,” she said. But she finally gave in and soon found herself being interviewed by “a really cool chick with piercings and tattoos” who hired her on the spot.

The pierced and tattooed chick was Hannah Houldennow the owner of a local vegan bakery, who immediately became Kilgore’s mentor.

“I really felt at home with Chef Hannah at a restaurant that cares so much about her bakery program that it bears her name,” Kilgore said. “I immediately started making cookies, croissants, brioche for our French toast, English muffins and I learned to structure my mornings to accomplish all of this while preparing our beautiful pastries.”

Kianna Kilgore of the Ares collective (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

She also added some tattoos and piercings to a previously blank canvas, which she says “allows me to express myself creatively through my work as well as through my body.”

The tattoo that Kilgore says is most closely tied to her passion for baking is Kiki, a bake-delivery witch from the Japanese animated film. Kiki’s Delivery Service which she often watched as a child.

Kianna Kilgore of the Ares collective (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Kianna Kilgore’s tattoo inspired by “Kiki’s Delivery Service”

“I don’t need a huge chef’s knife or some other cooking tool tattoo to prove what I’m doing,” she said. “Kiki was part of my childhood, she expresses what I do and she is a big part of my story.”

Kilgore returned to her Phoenix home after nearly a year at Prep & Pastry, which was the plan after her fiancé graduated from the University of Arizona. She worked as a pastry chef and line cook at real food kitchenand as a baker/glazier at donut bar where she perfected her grilled cheese donut and Monte Cristo donut techniques. But soon after returning to the Valley, she was hired as executive pastry chef at the Scottsdale location of Prep & Pastry, followed by a rise to pastry chef for the Prep & Pastry brand, and a continued ascent to his current gig as Ares. Company pastry chef of the Collective.

Kianna Kilgore of the Ares collective (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

The anchor of Kilgore’s work is his commitment to ensuring baked goods and flavors reflect the company’s brand.

“For me, it started at Prep & Pastry, where our guests expect a little bit of fantasy,” she said. “They should discover flavors they don’t often experience, like our Bacon and maple doissants, Cheesecake Croissants, Chocolate and malt donuts, that sort of thing. And this approach of connecting a brand to flavors in the context of confectionery carries over to our other concepts as well. »

Kianna Kilgore of the Ares collective (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

Today, Kilgore oversees a team of eight bakers, some of whom start their day at 2am. She is quick to praise them as someone who appreciated the feedback and recognition during those early days in the kitchen.

“I like to hold my bakers accountable and it’s important that their incredible work is recognized every day,” she said. “I know what this means to me personally, and I want to make sure they get it too.”

Empowerment and recognition seem to be working for Kilgore’s A team. They collectively release more than 10,000 cakes, croissants, cookies, muffins, brownies, donuts, pies, cookies and other baked goods each week for the five restaurants. And that number is expected to approach 15,000 per week over the coming fall and winter seasons.

While you might think the chocolate chip cookie is Kilgore’s definition of the perfect pastry given its central role in its history, think again. Turns out she’s saving that coveted spot for the croissant.

“The croissants are beautiful, versatile, warm and inviting with all their flaky layers, and to me it feels like poetry in motion as I make them in a process where every step is essential,” Kilgore said.

And There you go. The “aha moment” that revealed Kilgore’s connection to the crescent to me in a much bigger way. Poetry in motion, where every step is essential, seems to define his journey itself – from holding cookie discussion groups with his family as a seventh grader to managing a confectionery team that serves now several restaurants in Tucson and Scottsdale.

Kianna Kilgore of the Ares collective (Photo by Anna Smirnova)

“At the end of the day, I’m just a big nerd at heart, kind of a goofball really, and that served me well,” she concluded.

Well done, Kianna. Just add a sassy side and an encouraging wink from Kiki every once in a while to remind you of the mark you are leaving on our local hospitality scene.

For more information on Ares Collective’s dining concepts, visit prepandpastry.com, florasmarket.com and commonerandco.com.

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