Chef 101 with Santanna Salas, pastry chef at Bourbon Steak


When I’m not eating my own food — When I was in Vegas, there was this place called The Cupcakery, and it made amazing cupcakes. They had a strawberry cupcake with champagne frosting, and you could still taste and see the bubbles from the champagne in the frosting.

ADVERTISEMENT
Born and raised — Lake Tahoe, Nev.

Food I cannot stand — Foie gras

Greatest cooking influence —  I remember when I was a kid, my mom always used to let me lick the bowl when she made cupcakes. And my niece just started licking the bowl, and I told her, “That’s how I became a pastry chef!” I’m one of 54 grandchildren — my dad is one of 11 kids. I have a very large Latino family. I would go visit my grandparents; I just liked to help cook. That’s the way you stick out in a large family. You always want to be the special helper, so that’s what I learned to do.

Views on cooking TV shows —  I’ve been on one. It’s called “Chefs vs. City,” on the Food Network. My view is that cooking shows glamorize cooking — viewers don’t see what it’s really like to be in the kitchen. I think it’s great that people are more interested in cooking, but they don’t really understand what being a chef is all about — working long hours, holidays and weekends. I have a love-hate relationship with the shows.

Strangest cuisine I’ve tried — I’m not really adventurous. I’m a meat-and-potatoes type of gal. As bad as it sounds, the more I’ve been in the kitchen, the less I like to explore too much. I think foie gras was the worst thing I ever tried, and the strangest thing.

Must-have cooking utensil —An offset spatula. It can be used to spread cake batter. And we do a lot of tuiles — it’s like a crunchy garnish — and you can make those with them. You can decorate cakes with them. It’s a must-have for a pastry chef.

Thoughts on Washington’s food scene — I haven’t really had much time to get out, but it’s a much smaller scene than what I’m used to. Here everybody knows everybody. In Vegas, there’s hundreds of chefs, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

Worst kitchen disaster — The first wedding cake I ever made. The couple had custom-made bobble-heads, and they wanted them on top of the cake. They were about five pounds. I put it on top of the cake, and the couple were about to arrive. And I put it on top, and it fell off and tumbled down the back of the cake. I had 30 minutes to repair it. I had to put flowers all down the back of the cake.

Biggest pet peeve in the kitchen — I have a lot of them. Dirty side towels and sticky countertops. My staff, they hate me sometimes because I constantly clean up after them with Clorox wipes.

Strangest things cooked —A couple different cakes. I’ve made a seashell-themed color cake. It was Tiffany-color baby blue and it had white fondant seashells all around of the side off it. Classy Vegas couple. And I did a Vegas-themed one. It had two dice on top of it. It was red and yellow. Mainly it’s wedding cakes, because you can never say no to a client. Whatever they want they get.

Age — 23

Marital status — Single.