Winnona Herr Makes Butterscotch Bananas Foster Pudding
Katie Johnson Chef Winnona Herr of District American Kitchen and Wine Bar
Forks up, Phoenix! Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row present the third annual Pie Social Saturday, November 3rd, from 2 to 6 p.m. on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. We've got an all-star line up of bakers making pies for you to taste, and from now til Pie Social, we'll introduce them to you, one by one. We challenged each to make us a dish -- other than pie.
Today: Chef Winnona Herr of District American Kitchen and Wine Bar makes butterscotch bananas foster pudding.
Winnona Herr is all business in the kitchen. A self-confessed busybody, this Connecticut-born pastry chef hates to sit still. Luckily her work at the Downtown Sheraton's District American Kitchen and Wine Bar keeps her moving.
Growing up as one of 11 children with a mother who always prepared home-cooked meals, Winnona and her siblings were encouraged to help out with the cooking. She got an early start in the kitchen preparing food for the other 300 members of her Bruderhof community. The Bruderhof, which in German roughly translates to "house of brothers," is a movement of Christian followers who place a heavy emphasis on the shared interests of the community rather than individual possessions (hence, the communal kitchen).
From her quaint upbringing in a Bruderhof community, Winnona went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America and perform a three-year apprenticeship with the American Culinary Federation. As an established pastry chef, she's enjoys the creativity of her job and the fast-paced environment that keeps her on her feet and working with her hands. "I'm a do-it kind of a person, she says, "I need to touch and feel."
When we arrive after the Friday lunch rush, Winnona leads us back into the behemoth commercial kitchen of the Sheraton, where she and her PR team have graciously laid out a generous set up of sparking and bottled water, a few varieties of freshly made caramel apples, and a large bowl of Winnona's popular caramel cashew popcorn. At her station are small cups of precisely measured ingredients for the pumpkin whoopie pies, a seasonal dessert on the District menu and a staple treat in her New England state. We compliment her keen organization, and she shrugs it off, saying that it would be a waste of time to watch her measure out ingredients.
Herr is all practicality -- minus her apron, which is a color patchwork smock that her sister-in-law had specially made on a trip to Africa. Winnona explains that this isn't her typical attire for working in the kitchen, but she tries to wear it whenever she knows her picture's being taken.
As she gets to adding her ingredients one by one into a pristine white Cuisinart mixer, we begin asking her questions about her life as a chef. As she works, the camera clicks and flashes its way to close-up shots of her and her food. It's clear that she's become accustomed to this type of interaction in her four years as Pastry Chef at District American Kitchen. She answers each question casually and modestly as she stirs and pours the batter into calculated circles on a baking sheet, paying little attention to the lens that is incessantly in her face.
Katie Johnson Chef Winnona Herr's cashew caramel popcorn