four seasons hotel st. louis assistant executive pastry chef tiffany gilmore photo by virginia harold

Meals that changed St. Louis pastry chef Tiffany Gilmore's life

Tiffany Gilmore’s desserts and pastries for the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis are truly special. Each is infused with layers of flavor, restrained sweetness and subtle background notes that keep people guessing. Gilmore holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and previously worked as a florist, which makes sense when you consider her desserts, artfully presented down to the tiniest details. Here, she details two life-changing meals that shaped her as a chef.

Traveling in Southern India, 2013
“A couple of years into my cooking career, I went on a trip to India for about a month, starting in the south and going all the way up through India. The food is incredibly different in each region. We think we know Indian food, but in reality it has such variety and there are so many other influences from different cultures.

In the south, they have lots and lots of spice fields – spice plantations, actually. All the spices were so fresh and so vibrant. There were things like green cardamom – at that point in my life, I didn't even know cardamom could be green, because I'd only ever seen dried black cardamom. In India, they put cardamom in their coffee and their tea, which gives a very unique flavor.

Quite often, when you say ‘spices,’ the first thing you think of is ‘hot and spicy.’ Being on spice plantations in India was a turning point: the realization that spice can be so much more than that. Spice introduces other flavor components and can really change the whole [flavor] profile. This got me thinking about how I was using sugar. Once I started to think of sugar as a spice, my desserts became less sweet. I started to really try to use sugar as a way to enhance the main flavor component.”

Manzanita, Oregon, 2014-15
“[This meal] wasn’t fancy at all and didn't change the way I cook, but it's probably my favorite meal that I've ever had. I was on the Oregon coast where you can catch Dungeness crabs. The water is brackish – it’s half fresh water, half seawater. You go out in these little dinghy boats, drop traps and make a circle in the water. Eventually, you come back, grab your traps and take the Dungeness crabs back to the dock, where they have these big pots. They fill the pots up with that same brackish water and boil it, then you drop your crabs in to cook. You don't need butter or herbs, and the water is already salted.

You sit on this dock just digging in with your hand and breaking open the freshest crab you'll ever have in your life. It was a really lovely moment. The sun was setting, we had been out all day and the food was so fresh. Good friends, good times.

It isn't always what you're eating or where you're eating. The memories that are going to imprint most on you don’t have to be that Michelin-starred restaurant. Sometimes it's these nostalgic moments that you really hold on to. I guess that's why people like nostalgic food so much – it reminds them of childhood or of better times.”


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