Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Butcher & Bee brings on pastry chef Emily Cookson

Haute meets Hipster

Posted by Kinsey Gidick on Tue, May 13, 2014 at 2:09 PM

We love us some Butcher & Bee here at City Paper, but we must admit when we heard the news last week that Charleston Grill’s pastry chef Emily Cookson had started working there, we were perplexed. A high-end pastry chef in a sandwich shop? Eh? But, after speaking with Butcher & Bee owner Michael Shemtov and Cookson herself, the move is starting to make sense.

Cookson says that after years in fine dining, she’s ready for a change. “I’ve been interested in working in the kind of place that I like to eat. I love fine dining, especially The Grill, but that’s a once or twice a year kind of outing. In Charleston, Butcher & Bee is the kind of food I like to enjoy,” she says.

Cookson responded to a want ad looking for an assistant to Bee baker Joe Shea.

“Joe’s been doing all the bread on his own for the past two months,” says Shemtov, adding that helping Shea is Cookson’s initial job. “Emily’s focus will be 80 percent on bread for now, but she’ll start to work on cookies and desserts soon,” he adds. That’s good news for anyone who has had the Willy Wonka-like pleasure of eating Cookson’s pastries at Charleston Grill, for instance her absurdly delicious riff on “Candy Bars,” a small plate with items like a bite-size peanut butter cup and a mini malted chocolate milkshake.

And with the upcoming opening of Butcher & Bee’s new coffee shop, The Daily (currently under construction at 652 King St.), Shemtov says that Cookson will have even more freedom to present her sugary know-how.

As for her move from white tablecloth service to casual hipster hangout, Cookson agrees she’s part of a growing trend. “A lot of cooks start in fine dining because there’s so many techniques and proteins available. And then when they get older and branch out on their own, opening a similar restaurant is not financially feasible, so they take that fine dining knowledge and transform it,” she says.

At the Bee, Cookson will have control over all her ingredients. Shemtov says, “She’ll have access to all the same stuff she had before and be able to source on her own.” Given that creative atmosphere, and Cookson’s friendship with chef Stuart Tracy — which goes back to his years working at Charleston Place — a transformation is likely in order for the pastry queen.

We suspect Butcher & Bee’s delicious ante has just been upped. 

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