Overcome a 'fear of frying' at Opera House presentation
Gale Gand did not always want to be a chef.
“Initially, my parents thought the work would be too ‘blue collar’ for me,” she said.
However, Gand said she threw caution to the wind and followed her dream of pursuing a career in the culinary arts, which was her passion. She rose to become a well-known chef, and cooking and teaching cooking became her career.
On Feb. 21 she will share the story of her success during a Woodstock Fine Arts Association Creative Living presentation at the Opera House, starting with the tale of where it all began – working in a restaurant as a waitress and kitchen-line cook while attending art school in 1976.
“[Basically] I was just thrown into the kitchen at 19,” she said.
She eventually left the restaurant, and, though the chef “begged her” to come back into the kitchen after discovering her culinary talents, she said she did not get serious about cooking until she enrolled in cooking school as a gift to herself for her 27th birthday.
She went on to become a nationally acclaimed pastry chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, television personality, teacher, entrepreneur and mother.
She was founding pastry chef and partner of upscale dining restaurant Tru, opened in 1999 in Chicago, with then-partners Rick Tramonto and Rich Melman. As she ascended the culinary ladder of success, Gand said she was approached by the Food Network.
“They wanted to do a dessert show,” she said. “They called and asked if I wanted my own show. [Sweet Dreams] aired in 2000 and ran for eight years.”
“Sweet Dreams” was the first all-dessert show on the Food Network and also aired on the Cooking Channel for two years.
Since “Sweet Dreams,” Gand has made appearances on “Martha Stewart,” “Oprah,” “The Dr. Oz Show,” “Baking With Julia,” “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show.”
She also competed on “Iron Chef America” and was featured as a celebrity judge on “Food Network Challenge,” “Last Cake Standing,” “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Just Desserts.”
The James Beard Foundation and Bon Appétit magazine recognized Gand as Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year. In addition, she has written seven cookbooks and is currently working on her eighth.
When not writing or making television appearances, Gand teaches cooking classes at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest. She looks forward to her upcoming lecture at the Woodstock Opera House.
“People can come out and listen to the quirky things that happen on the way to the kitchen,” she said. “And get the inside story about what it is like to work in a restaurant. They [also] can watch me cry, which should make them laugh.”
She said she hopes to show people how they too can become successful in the kitchen.
“Everyone has a fear of frying [and making mistakes],” she said, referencing her own cooking mishaps. “Let me show you how to cover those mistakes up.”
Gand’s lecture will take place at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Woodstock Opera House, 121 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock. Tickets are $24. For information, call 815-338-4212.