Inspired by Julia Child, Katherine Thompson has a passion for baking that drives her to create desserts at not one, but three restaurants. Although it keeps her quite busy, she is in good company—she works alongside her husband, Chef Gabe Thompson, who is responsible for the savory side of the menu.
Were there any experiences from your childhood involving baking that hinted at your becoming a pastry chef? Since the age of 12 or 13, I was pretty much obsessed with cooking and baking. I remember receiving Julia Child's "The Way To Cook" as a Christmas present and trying the pastry and dessert recipes. Also, my mother always made wonderful desserts growing up. I've stolen most of her recipes!
Cooking wasn't your initial career. What led you to shift gears? I thought it made more practical sense to get a liberal arts education and focus on a 9 to 5 career. But, my passion always remained with food. It was something that I couldn't ignore. Finally I realized that it was possible to pursue a career in the hospitality industry that wasn't necessarily "traditional".
You are the pastry chef for Anfora, L'Artusi, and dell'anima. What special challenges does making desserts for three separate restaurants present? Since I cannot physically exist at all three restaurants at the same time, it is difficult to oversee the execution at each restaurant. I try to create recipes that are technique-heavy in the preparation with plate presentations that are easy and simple to execute. And, I have learned to be more flexible. Sometimes my ideas do not necessarily translate well in other locations.
You work with your husband, Gabe Thompson, who is the Executive Chef at all three restaurants. What are the pros and cons? There aren't many cons. We love working together and we are so lucky that we have a positive working relationship. The only downside is finding time together outside of work. That is always a challenge.
What was the last dessert you had at a restaurant or bakery that knocked your socks off? Strawnoffee Pie at Co. I wasn't sure what to expect but the combination of graham cracker crust, strawberries, toffee and balsamic mousse was pretty much insane. I hogged the whole thing; Gabe barely got a bite.
What are your favorite NYC hangouts or places you might be considered a regular? The Spotted Pig. It is pretty much our home dining room. They are probably sick of us by now. We can't get enough of their dirty martinis, deviled eggs, chicken liver toast, and pretty much anything on their menu. And, the waitstaff is awesome. Each and every server exceeds our expectations. It helps that they serve food until 2am, too!
If you could put together a three course meal (including dessert) with dishes from three different NYC restaurants, what would you include? Caviar Egg Toast from Jean Georges. Ridiculously delicious. The egg is perfectly translucent and they don't hold back on the caviar. I think about that dish constantly. Fideos from Casa Mono. I can't go to Casa Mono without ordering this dish. It is the perfect combination of pasta, seafood, pork and mayonaisse. How can you go wrong with that combo? And frozen custard from The Shake Shack. The best in the city. Gotta love the B-line, too!
What's in your fridge that you might be embarrassed to tell us about? A bottle of champagne and nothing else. No food. That's pretty embarrassing, isn't it?
Where can we find your favorite NYC pizza and burger? Pizza: Motorino and Pulino's are both delicious. We love Franny's in Brooklyn, too. Burger: The Spotted Pig. Hands down. But, I have a fondness for 5 Guys since I grew up in the DC area.
What's your favorite hidden gem in NYC? Kuma Inn. My friend King is the chef/owner. His food always hits the spot. Gotta love the hidden location: up a tiny stairwell on Ludlow street. I only wish that I ate there more often.