photo: courtesy endgrain
Alanna Elinoff, 24, will be the pastry chef at the soon-to-open Endgrain (1851 W. Addison St., 773-687-8191). Intrigued by her rise to prominence in the Chicago dining scene, we asked her to tell us how she landed a position so high on the pastry pile. Here’s her story, in her own (condensed and edited) words.
“When I was little, my parents owned cookies and ice cream stores in Texas. Then we moved to Colorado and they opened a restaurant called Willowcreek. I would go in the back and toast bread.
“I spent my junior year abroad in Paris. I realized that political science wasn’t for me. Arguing politics and European government systems was not as much fun as cooking. I had to find a way to get into a restaurant. In my first actual job, after high school, I was a short-order cook at a golf course. I made omelets, chili cheese hamburgers, and lots of Cobb salads.
“I put in an application at Girl & the Goat to be a cook, even though I knew it wouldn’t happen. They hired me as a hostess. When I was filling out my application, the beer list for the restaurant was the last page. It wasn’t supposed to be there. I said, ‘Oh, this is a really great beer list.’ I had used one of the beers to make chocolate stout brownies the day before. Stephanie [Izard] thought it was funny and said, ‘Next time you should bring them in.’
“The manager asked Stephanie if I could stageone day in pastries. He was trying to help me out. Stephanie said yes, and I never felt more at home anywhere. I asked if I could come back. She said, ‘Get some kitchen shoes and kitchen pants.’ I had no idea what I needed to buy, but my mom did.
“After about eight months, one of the pastry cooks put in her notice, and so there was a job opening. I got it. That’s where I met Enoch [Simpson, Endgrain’s chef/partner]. I’d known him for a while when he was throwing around the idea of doing doughnuts. I asked if I could help.
“At Endgrain, I will be helping with the pastry menu and dessert menu and daily dessert specials. We are doing hand pies. The pie dough is my recipe. I made the hand pies for Dose market in February. Pork and kimchi hand pie, and also mushroom and rapini.
Now, at Endgrain, Elinoff's official title is pastry chef. But that wasn't always a sure thing:
“Originally, I was just going to be The Doughnut Girl.”