The first time I ran across Jossie Perlmutter's name was on the menu at Clark Barlowe's Heirloom restaurant in Coulwood. The slight, diffident young woman who came to our table at the end of our meal was completely at odds with the spectacular dessert plate she bore. Though I no longer remember just what composed that plate, I definitely remembered her name.
Perlmutter and Barlowe met while working at a restaurant in her home state of Maryland; she as host, he as sous chef. When Barlowe opened his own place in Charlotte last year, Perlmutter happened to be studying pastry in France, and her pictures on Facebook were intriguing enough to garner a job offer at Heirloom.
Today, that unassuming pastry chef has spread her wings, recently moving to The Asbury under executive chef Chris Coleman. Only 22 years old, she has sprung seemingly out of nowhere, scattering beautiful desserts full of complex and delicate flavors as she goes. Perhaps these intricate constructions reflect the scientific bent of her initial career trajectory; fortunately for us, Perlmutter's creative side won over in the end.
Creative Loafing: What drove you to get into cooking in the first place? Is pastry your first and only love, or do you see yourself as a cook who happened into the dessert side?
Jossie Perlmutter: I took a couple of recreational classes at L'Académie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland, but mostly I just baked on my own in high school. [When] I was studying engineering in college, I realized that working at a desk or in a lab would never satisfy my creative ambitions. I decided instead to pursue my passion for pastry. It was a natural choice, because it combines my love for both art and science. I graduated early with a degree in entrepreneurship and headed off to France for pastry school.
Yours is a creative approach — where does your inspiration come from? Do you have a conscious way of choosing and combining flavors, or is it more intuitive?
When creating my desserts, I generally start with a flavor profile, and decide what I want to achieve with the dish. For example, do I want it to bring back childhood memories, or do I want it to be a light end to a heavy meal? Once I have that basic outline, I look to books and photos for inspiration. I am very fortunate to be working with such talented chefs at The Asbury who understand that I am new in my career, but believe in me, and encourage me to strive to achieve my full potential.
Where do you see yourself going from here? Dessert empire, or pastry specialist happy to make magic in the back of the kitchen?
In the future, I can see myself catering upscale dessert events, or starting a bakery where the proceeds benefit animal rescue. I feel very fortunate to be pursuing a career that really is my passion.