Serious Eats: Chicago
Behind the Sweets: The Publican's Anna Shovers Bakes and Plates Chocolate Beet Cake
I frequently ask bakers and pastry chefs the question, "How did you get here?" and am always intrigued by the answer. The notion that there is no set path to a career in pastry is an understatement. When each person I have talked to recounts their unique story, I am unfailingly astounded by the incongruity of it all. In Anna Shovers' case, she began with a degree in painting from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and is now the pastry chef at The Publican, one of the most popular and respected restaurants in Chicago.
After graduating and subsequently working with AmeriCorps for a year, Anna wanted to get back into a creative field. Although she had never stepped foot in a professional kitchen before, she landed an internship at Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia where she relished the creative challenges posed by pastry. Her experience there helped her decide to move to Chicago to attend the French Pastry School. But even then the road wasn't direct. She worked the savory line at The Publican for a year and a half (which ultimately influences her creative process now). Though she wanted to switch to pastry, there was no room at The Publican at the time, so she moved to Everest, where she relearned all of the French pastry background she had learned at The French Pastry School. After a few months at Everest, The Publican called her back when Sam Radov left the pastry chef position open. Now that she's back at The Publican on the sweet side, she's hit her stride in a seasonally-focused and ever-changing kitchen where Paul Kahan has given her free reign over desserts.
One of her more recent creations is a chocolate cake with an unlikely addition: beets from local farmers' markets. Check out the slideshow to see the process behind Anna's warm chocolate beet cake.