Every so often within your circle of friends, you uncover that you are in the presence of a bright and shining star that you had yet to uncover. melissa_anne_glover_chef_spotlight_delectabelleMelissa Anne Glover is one of those people to me. Last year I whisked off to the lovely mountains of West Virginia with a group of friends to a ski chalet (well, house…but chalet just sounds so much more impressive). Whatever name you choose to call it, once we arrived, we were rewarded with the  most inspiring, sweeping views of the mountain and slopes.

A mishmash of friends got together for a long weekend and we couldn’t have had more fun if we tried. Melissa was there with me and for the first time since knowing her, I got to sit down and hear her story, and boy was I impressed.

After telling her about my idea for this blog and passion for cooking, she piped up with her own life story, which turns it out, contains an illustrious background as a professional chef. I have since gotten to know Melissa much better, and I wanted to share one local chef’s journey to reaching her dream.

Bored by the idea of the traditional desk job, Melissa knew that she was not cut out for this sort of path right from the start of her career. Stifled by the thought of spending her days punching a calculator under fluorescent lighting in a local office park, she began to explore her thoughts and weigh her options. She was clear that she wanted to do something that she loved and was passionate about.

Inspiration
As a young girl growing up in a family of six kids, its an understatement to say that you have to be aggressive to find your sense of identity and individuality. For Melissa, her inspiration was her Grandmother, Liz Doonan. She was enamored by her gift for really entertaining. Melissa loved her exuberant personality and flair for putting on occasions that would make guest light up with delight and satisfaction. She had a way of making each child feel appreciated, with her kind southern manner.

Going to her Grandmother’s house was always an anticipated a treat for Melissa. She recalls that with every visit, there would be some new and exciting flavor to try, as her grandmother served up delicacies that don’t come by too often in a bustling house of six kids. It was there that she tried her first shrimp cocktail, tested the waters of squash souffle, and nibbled on decorative canapes. This experience made a lasting impression on Melissa and upon recalling it, she knew this was what delighted and motivated her.

Education
So, off she went to the renowned Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island to pursue an education that would lead her to a career in culinary arts.

Melissa’s years in Providence led her on a journey of culinary exploration, as she tried and tested different techniques and cooking styles, trying them on as one would a dress to see which fit best.

Motivation
Her first job was at XO Cafe in the East Providence. This kick started her experimentation with very structured and architectural food. This experience also introduced her to the standards of cooking expected in a fine dining establishment, and aided her in refining her techniques and presentation.

It was here that she first began to learn about lauded chefs in the industry, such as Alfred Portale and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

As she made her way through her studies, Melissa moved on to expand her repertoire and took employment with the posh Nantucket Golf Club before moving on to the beautiful Sun Valley Resort in Idaho to foray into what would be the beginning of her professional career as a chef.

After several years in Idaho, Melissa decided it was time to return home to her roots in Bethesda, Maryland, so she packed up and headed east to her hometown in 2000 to work with Jeff Black at local favorite eatery, Blacks Bar & Kitchen located in the heart of downtown Bethesda.

In 2002, her biggest coup yet, Melissa’s hard work paid off, as she earned the role of chef within the British Embassy in Washington, DC. This is a highly coveted position in the DC culinary scene. She was cycled through three nerve-wracking interviews before achieving this role, as the bar is set extremely high due to the level of service and the scope of the clientele, from dignitaries and royalty, to average daily visitors. Needless to say, you need to know your stuff to obtain a position of this height.

The embassy was impressed with Melissa’s efficient work style and her savory style of cooking, not unlike the style her grandmother had bestowed upon her family as a child. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of the pomp and circumstance when visitors like Prime Minister Tony Blair came to town and she was able to delight and satiate her guests with her very own, handcrafted recipes.

The menu she admits took some adjustments, as many of the flavors and staple dishes that the English prefer are quite different from what American’s consider staples. She learned to perfect such favorites as Shepard’s Pie, Cornish Pasty and Mince Pies for many a special occasion. This opened up a whole new world of culinary experimentation that Melissa thrives so well on.

After six years as chef at the embassy, Melissa moved on to Persimmon Restaurant in Bethesda, MD. Here she took a different route focusing on the sweeter side of cooking as she accepted the role of Head Pastry Chef for this award winning restaurant. Melissa was so kind as to invite me into the kitchen at Persimmon one chilly spring morning to warm up near the oven and observe her as she whizzed around the kitchen with skill and ease to create the restaurant’s evening dessert offering.

As a pastry chef Melissa calls upon her background working in so many unique eateries to inspire her creations and combinations. Often she develops an idea from an every day observation. For example, while nibbling on some refreshing Meyer lemon sorbet, she instantly came up with the idea for a tea and lemon combination dessert, similar to the flavor of an Arnold Palmer.

Melissa is extremely inventive and a joy, as well as an inspiration, to hang around with. I say this partially selfishly because she can talk about food all day long, just as I can and she just so happens to be hilarious to boot.

So here are some snapshots of my day spent with Melissa talking pastry and the four delicious desserts I got to watch her make (and taste)!

Warm Maple Pecan Tart with Bourbon Spiced Ice Cream & Salted Caramel

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To make the pecan tart, first Melissa rolled out freshly made dough and sliced out perfectly sized circles using her ramekins as a guide to reduce wasted dough.

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Next, Melissa using a quick spinning method to round out the rough edges and shape the dough before pressing them into the ramekins. "It's the same process as making pizza crust," she adds. "A very Zen like process."

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Lastly, Melissa gently pressed the dough into the ramekins as the last step before creating the fresh maple filling.

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With the crusts in place, now it's time for the filling!

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And they are ready for the oven!

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Finally, the finished product arrives. It smelled so good in that kitchen that words can't describe it.

Pumpkin Marscarpone Cheesecake with Warm Winter Fruit Compote

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This glorious arrangement of dried fruit was combined to begin creating a gourmet winter fruit compote.

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Melissa begins slicing fresh vanilla beans to use in her flavorful mixture that will season the dried winter fruit compote.

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Next, she adds the sliced vanilla and added it to the base for the compote, which also contains sugar, cinnamon and star anise.

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Once the base of the compote has had time to release its flavor and dissolve the sugar, the seasonings are removed and the berries and cognac added. The berries really expand and bring a warm comforting flavor when mixed with the cognac.

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Melissa uses a small torch to release the chilled and set cheescake from its container smoothly. It slides right out onto the plate in perfect condition using this technique.

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Next, she brings it all together for plating.

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And out come the petit, crunchy, biscochito to finish as a topping for the cheesecake.

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And voila! The beautiful finished product.

Dark Chocolate Cream Pie Martini

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Next up, Melissa put together her delicious Chocolate Cream Pie Martini. The dark chocolate pudding is first layered with a dusting of graham cracker crust, then topped with fresh whipped chantilly cream.

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Next she smooths out the top for presentation.

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And yet another beautiful (and super tasty) finished product.

 

Double Espresso Chocolate Cake Topped with Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

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Melissa's next and final treat was this yummy double espresso chocolate cake made with cafe latte cream and bitersweet chocolate sauce.

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Once the ingredients have been combined, they are ready for the pan and baking.

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Melissa uses a piping bag to distribute the mixtire in the containers to avoid messy spills and make her cakes more clean and precise in measurement.

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Another delicious dessert from Melissa is done!

 

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