Rare indeed is the pastry chef who ascends to celebrity status. Rarer still is the pastry chef who becomes chef/owner of a nationally acclaimed restaurant. Mindy Segal is both. Her pastry skills enabled her to work her way through some of Chicago’s greatest restaurants (Gordon, Charlie Trotter’s, Marché, and mk). She has also developed dessert menus for restaurants such as Mia Francesca, Harvest on Huron, Thyme and Spago. In 2005, She opened her own place, Hot Chocolate, a restaurant and dessert bar in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood.
|WHAT’S CHILLIN’: Hummus Passion Fruit/ Acai Juice Blend Fiji Water Fresh Farmer’s Market Vegetables Coffee Blue Cheese Wisconsin Cheese Beer|
There’s quite a collection of beer here in your fridge. Is something special going on?
I love craft beer, and always keep a lot of it on hand here at home. But there was something special: We did a dinner with Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Beers at the restaurant last night.
Looks like some of that Brooklyn Beer followed you home.
I walked away with a 750 milliliter of Brooklyn Local 1—that’s a Belgian style—and several bottles of Black Chocolate Stout.
We thought we’d find all kinds of dessert experiments in the refrigerator of a big-time pastry chef.
My at-home eating revolves around craft beers lately, so that’s what I keep on hand. I’m really a sausage, beer and cheese-eating kind of gal at heart.
Have you been in craft beer mode for a long time?
Only for a couple of years. I’ve been in the business for 20 years and this is a new passion for me, I really enjoy learning about the whole subculture.
Got any favorites?
It always depends. I enjoy pairing beers with foods because the possibilities are endless.
What are some typical items you eat here at home?
I’ll do a lot of pizzas. I’ll buy a frozen one—a Tombstone pepperoni— and then add a few interesting items on top.
Let’s see. Pickled banana peppers. Hummus. And extra cheese, like a great blue. De Regenboog beer from Brussels goes great with the blue cheese pizza.
What’s your work week like?
I’m off Monday and Tuesday.
And the rest?
The other days, I go in at nine or 10 in the morning. I start my day there with coffee for breakfast— Uncommon Grounds “Wild Ass” blend, roasted in Saugatuck, MI—plus a shot of Illy espresso.
Why so early? That makes for a long day.
We do lunch Wednesday through Friday, and a brunch on Saturday and Sunday. We’re busy right away, every day.
We thought brunch shifts were for the hired help, not an owner.
Not at our restaurant. I would never take Sunday off. It’s a big money-making day, and a big industry day, too. I always work brunch and dinner on Sunday.
So mostly you eat at work?
Yes, you can say I eat healthy at home and a lot of junky, high carbohydrate food while I’m at Hot Chocolate.
Tell us about that cool tattoo.
I love my grandmother and she’s not al ive anymore. I thought I’d commemorate her by getting this tattoo.
How’d you pick the design?
My everyday china here at home is my grandmother’s good china. This tattoo replicates that pattern on her china. I have other tattoos; this one’s special.