|Alana is our pastry chef, a.k.a. the person you should thank for satisfying your post-lunch dessert cravings. Alana designs every single pastry item herself, from recipe-making to taste-testing to actually making theme every day to serve not only at Hudson, but at our Chelsea Market and NoMad locations as well. We sat down with Alana to get to know the mind behind the munchies.
Where were you before Chalait?
I moved to New York because I used to be a drummer in a band. I saw a lot of the country from touring, but we all decided to finally make New York our base when we were writing our last album. Traveling and playing music got me really interested in food because I had discovered so many new types of cuisine. Before I came to America, I never had proper Mexican food, slow-cooked barbecue or a real bahnmi, to name a few. New York is such an incredible melting pot of flavors.
I've always liked baking for friends and family, and I wanted to do something where I worked with my hands...I'm not the sort of person to sit behind a computer. I like the concentration and relaxation of making large-batch pastries and I'm really enjoying the opportunity to express myself in my recipes.
Has being Australian influenced your recipe ideas?
Definitely. I've tried to bring some more unique Australian flavors into our menu. I love using macadamia nuts (Matchadamia Blondie), passionfruit (Passionfruit Melting Moments) and more obscure things like wattleseed (coming soon) in my recipes.
A lot of your recipes are vegan, why?
I wasn't trained in vegan baking, but I've seen that there's a real interest in and call for a menu that features vegan food, so I started experimenting with vegan substitutions. Some compromises are easier than others, but I've been using a few key tricks like flax eggs, and golden syrup instead of honey. I also like sneaking vegetables into my recipes like beets, zucchini, beans and squash.
You've been with Chalait since our first location opened. What was the first recipe you ever made here?
The date balls - which we still have! The kitchen in the West Village location was about ten square feet and we had no oven, so the balls were something I came up with that could be made in a tight space without heart while also fitting the dietary preferences of our customer base.
Okay...we all wanna know...what's your favorite pastry to eat?
Definitely the Chocolate Beet Muffin. It's super rich and earthy because of the beets and coffee, and it totally satisfies anyone's sweet tooth.
And what's your favorite pastry to make?
The Matchadamia Blondie. I'm really excited about this item too. The macadamia nuts cut through the sweetness of the brown sugar, and the matcha retains its color so you get that beautiful green color in a nice slab of deliciousness. It's my top pick for anyone looking to experience matcha in pastry form.
Last but not least...for that 10% discount, what's your favorite drink?
The Espresso Tonic. It's not super sweet but it still feels like a treat in the afternoon. I've usually already had enough sugar by the time I have it, so it tips me over in the best way.