Interview with Pastry Chef Shawn Gawle of Corton – New York, NY

September 2011

Antoinette Bruno: What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?
Shawn Gawle: I always had fun doing it. My dad did it, and I was always around. And I figured you might as well enjoy your career. It’s an industry where you keep learning. I started in savory and then used those percentages to go to pastry—it was extremely humbling.

AB: You were a savory cook, who took his skills to the pastry world. How do you think pastry skills translate to the savory side?
SG: You can tell night and day, Laurent [Gras] and Paul [Liebrandt] are better because they have pastry experience. Curtis Duffy did pastry. You have a different respect. You go back to garde manger, and you’re a better cook.

AB: If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be?
SG: Do over? I don't have many regrets. I wish I’d traveled when I was younger. Spain and Asia. Yeah, you never get time off. You have to do it between jobs. For the longest time, I never went to Europe because I always thought I needed three months or a month. I just went for my birthday. A friend was in Geneva. I went up the German side of Switzerland.

AB: What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do in your career to date?
SG: The hardest is balance. When I moved to Chicago, it was the best and worst experience. I love Laurent [Gras], but I worked six days, 16 hours a day. I only had one friend. We got a drink once a week. The balance was something we talked about. [Laurent] wanted me to do sports. I looked into doing some stuff. It’s good to read a book in your life that’s not culinary or go for a run. But it’s extremely difficult.

AB: Where do you fit into your culinary community?
SG: I could be more involved. That’s something I’ve talked about. Getting involved in Slow Food. I go to the farmers' market three days a week and have a good relationship with them.

AB: If you weren’t a pastry chef, what do you think you’d be doing?
SG: I guess to work for myself. I’ve always wanted to do a pastry [place] and run the whole place. It’s hard. As much as I would love to do a dessert place, I don’t know if things are there just yet. I want my own place, where I can control and manage all aspects. I love the coast of Portland, Maine. And if I have a small enough place, I could continue cooking.