Ritz-Carlton, Boston pastry chef Christopher Goluszka knows where to buy the best butter for your holiday pies

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Are you formally trained?

When I was in high school, I was more focused on the art stuff than the basic studies. I discovered very early on that school was not really my forte. From there I went to the Cooking and Hospitality Institute in Chicago, which sadly no longer exists, unfortunately, like many of these little culinary schools.

My first job was at Wheaton College, where I made $8.75 an hour. We made all the pastries for the school; it was breakfast, lunch and dinner. Between 5,000 and 5,700 people would pass through it. So it was just high volume. I worked with a great team of ladies from Eastern Europe.

Let’s talk a bit about Chicago versus Boston. Did it feel like a big leap, from the Midwest to the East Coast?

It was definitely a big, big leap. But one of the main things here is this: people are very direct. I miss the kindness of the Midwest almost every day. But in terms of food, everyone is more likely to get the homier style stuff compared to back home, where it’s a bit trendy or it’s a bit progressive. Whoopie pies are always a hit when you go to Bova or Mike. You see the homier Italian style stuff here.

Pastry chef Christopher Goluszka.The Ritz Carlton, Boston

How would you describe the food scene in Chicago compared to the food scene here?

Here in Boston, things are starting to get a little trendier. But I feel like here you have a lot of old spots. Like in the North End, it’s kind of the same. It’s hard to break out of the mold of tiramisu and cannolis and stuff like that. But, if you know what you’re doing, keep doing it. But back home, I feel like there’s a little more room to try different things because it’s a bigger city.

Do you have any favorite places in Boston? What do you end up eating?

Currently, I am in Somerville, and I have been there for three years since I moved. I generally like to stay in neighborhood places. I tend to lean more towards the breakfast stuff. I am a big breakfast person. The thing I like to do the most on my days off is just grab a cup of coffee and a pastry. Some of my favorite places are Highland Kitchen near Davis. They do a bit more elevated and family food, and it’s always good every time I go. For breakfast type stuff, Vinal Bakery is one of my favorites, along with English muffins. It’s a great way to start the day, just outside of Union Square.

How is the end of year celebrations going at the Ritz? Take us behind the scenes.

I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone a bit with this. I’m trying to be big for my first Ritz vacation. I am trying to make a large chocolate display case and gingerbread houses for a nice presentation.

I work with three very talented people. We create a big screen throughout the lobby and really amp up the holiday spirit the moment you walk into the hotel.

Do you wake up early in the morning? Coming home late at night? I want all the details.

It’s a very small operation that we have. … I still try to arrive a little early, around 7:30. So I finally got past the days of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. for a shift, which is great. I work maybe 9 to 10 hours. The one thing I’ve learned after working for a long time is that when you hit a wall almost every day, it’s not worth continuing. It’s better to make a fresh start tomorrow and go from there.

Who is staying at a hotel in this strange, quasi-post-COVID world?

At the Ritz, it’s a different and unique clientele because we get a lot of high-ranking Marriott members. They already have very high expectations because they stay at so many different establishments. Now we’re starting to pick up more families, which is always fun to see. They are more impressed as soon as they walk through the door. And then, on the pastry side, it’s always nice, because I’m the last convenience of a meal. We are the last impression. I try to give that little extra wow at the end.

What do you think is the future role of places like the Ritz now, since March 2020?

I feel like it’s starting to come back. I don’t think anything really goes back to pre-COVID, unfortunately, just because everything works. It’s starting to get there in terms of volume and people accepting to travel again.

I feel like the craving for baking is starting to come back. When they first opened the hotels it was very simple. Now it’s gotten to the point where it’s like, let’s try to separate ourselves from a few other places and have a little more to offer and have homemade baked goods.

Do you bake at home? Or can’t you stand to watch it in your spare time?

Everyone always asks my wife every time they meet her and find out what I’m doing: they say, “You must be eating so well!” She’ll be the first to tell you [food] is the last thing I usually do when I’m home. And if she really, really needs something, it’s like pulling teeth for me to do it. I usually go out for stuff during the week at Café Beatrice. Unfortunately for my bank account, there’s a Union Square Donuts in Assembly, where I live. So every few days when I walk the dog in the morning, I think, “You know what sounds good before work? A donut.”

What type of dog?

I have a 6 and a half year old Lab mix. We got her from a rescue company in Chicago.

What’s your all-time favorite restaurant in Chicago? A place you really miss?

That’s an excellent question. There are two. For dinner, there was the Smyth and Loyalist, which was actually a really cool concept. Downstairs was an upscale bar, where they had the best burger in Chicago. And then upstairs, I believe it was Michelin starred. I can’t remember if it was one or two. And I used to work with somebody at the Ritz in Chicago who was the chef de partie at Smyth and a great guy. I had a lot of hospitality when I went there.

The one thing I really miss the most is the breakfast food at home. There was this place in my hometown [in Elmhurst, Illinois] called Stray Hen, where you can get a southwestern skillet, made with hash browns, peppers, onions, chorizo, two eggs, then pancakes on the side with a cup of coffee. It was only $13, and it would be the best breakfast ever.

Guilty culinary pleasure?

For me, it’s always been ice cream, ever since I was younger. It doesn’t matter what gender. And then, fortunately here in Boston, there are many good micro-creameries, which also offer fantastic ice cream.

Favorites?

It’s usually linked between New City in Cambridge, which is easy to get to for me, or Honeycomb, closer to Davis Square. It’s really good too.

Last question for all the nervous home bakers baking pies for Thanksgiving: what’s your number one tip?

In terms of baking pies at home, number one: just bake what you like, in terms of ingredients. You don’t want to try to do something cool on Instagram just because it looks different. You probably won’t like it. Don’t try anything out of your comfort zone in terms of ingredients.

And, if you can, a higher quality butter will make all the difference in taste. I go to Elmendorf, a bakeware store [in Cambridge], for Plugra. I feel like it makes a lot of difference in terms of cookies or pie crust.


Kara Baskin can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.

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