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Bitch at Us: Chef Tiffany MacIsaac of Buttercream Bakeshop

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Our taste buds mourned the day we heard Tiffany MacIsaac, former pastry chef of Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG), would leave the company. Whether it was her sticky buns at Birch and Barley or her doughnuts at GBD, we couldn’t get enough of her sweet confections.

We didn’t have to wait long, however. Quickly we learned of her plans to open her own full-service bakery operation, Buttercream Bakeshop. We’ve sampled a variety of her creations at pop-ups around town and were not disappointed.

A few stand-outs from Buttercream were creative treats like peanut butter Ho-Hos and fruity pebble rice krispie treats. Her desserts will make you envious of her husband, Chef Kyle Bailey (Birch and Barley, Churchkey, GBD, The Arsenal at Bluejacket).

We recently caught up with Tiffany for an interview, where she asked it if was OK to have her mixer whizzing in the background so she could get her orders done. We love a woman who can multi-task. Being the business-minded Bitches we are, we talked entrepreneurship, women in the kitchen, and, of course, dessert.

Read on to see what she had to say and read our interview with husband Kyle Bailey, here.

Where is your favorite place to brunch in town?

Oh man, there are so many. What’s funny is I never used to go to brunch and now that I’ve left Neighborhood Restaurant Group, I’m finally able. I think my number one place is the dim sum brunch at The Source because I love their turnip cake. I crave it all the time. Sometimes, I get on Twitter and ask if anyone wants to go with me if I have no one to go with. They also have a really good red miso glazed doughnut.

What is your favorite dish to cook for brunch?

That’s another hard one. Obviously, I like baked goods. But my favorite dish to prepare is scrambled eggs because I make them runny and cheesy. Whenever we have chefs’ late night in someone’s kitchen, that’s what I make.

My favorite thing to serve is sticky buns because everyone goes nuts for them as you put them down.

Do you prefer to brunch in or out?

I definitely prefer going out because you don’t have to clean anything. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since leaving NRG, it’s that I hate washing dishes and I don’t have someone washing the dishes anymore. Imagine how many dishes I generate and then double that.

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What brunch item do you have to order if it’s on the menu?

Kyle and I don’t get to go to brunch that often, so whenever there’s French toast on the menu, we get that. If there’s a board of assorted baked goods, I get that to see what other people are doing and get inspired. Oh and chicken and waffles, even the averages ones are amazing.

Do you prefer Bloody Marys or mimosas?

I usually start with a Bloody Mary. It’s one of those things where I think I want one, but then I finish it and I’m like, that’s enough. I usually move on to a corpse reviver or a brunch cocktail. I do love Bloody Marys with crazy garnishes like the one at The Source with a half-smoke. I saw one at Evening Star with grilled cheese and I was like, “Oh My God, yes.”

If you had to invite a group of local celebrities to brunch, who would they be?

It would probably a bunch of politicians because that would be my only opportunity to meet them. But it would be a short brunch.

Having worked in so many different restaurants and kitchens, what made you fall in love with the idea of a bakery?

You know, to me it was getting back to basics and being able to be in one place all the time. I used to be all over the place —and Saturday and Sunday I would be in the kitchen testing recipes. When you have a single-purpose bakery, it’s really amazing but I didn’t think I could commit myself to one thing. A full service bakery was the next step because I can cook whatever I want, which will hopefully keep me stimulated for the rest of my career.

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Where do you draw inspiration from for your unique recipes?

Oh man, it’s hard to say. It can come from anywhere like on TV or something I’m craving. I just try to make things that I want to make and people want to eat. It’s less about the technique for me and more about the product and the process. I don’t try to cram in a technique just for the sake of it. I want to make desserts that make people sad when they’re over.

You know when you get a dessert and it looks amazing, but it ends up tasting just O.K.? It should be lick the plate clean good. That’s the goal I want to go for.

If you were to create your ultimate dessert, what would be in it?

That’s a hard one because there’s so many things I love. The ingredients I love the most are passion fruit and peanut butter. They’re like the pastry chef version of pork fat. You know how they say put some pork in it and it will taste better? I feel like that with passion fruit for fruity desserts and peanut butter for chocolate.

We celebrate the idea of female entrepreneurship. What was the hardest part about leaving Neighborhood Restaurant Group and starting your own business? Do you have any advice for women contemplating their own business?

The hardest part is definitely the uncertainty. I was part of a big company and there was security. Now I’m on my own but, for me, it’s so rewarding—even the parts that scare me. I’m so grateful to be going through this process and I’m trying to enjoy every second. The thing I would recommend the most that I worked hard to do is to be sure to know what you don’t know. Don’t have this pride that you’re going to do it all on your own. I think without people around me, this would be a total disaster. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and take all the advice you can get. Also, don’t let fear paralyze you. You will constantly question yourself, but don’t let that take over all your thoughts. Just let it make you better.

The chef world is often thought of a boys’ club. Why do you think there is a lack of women in restaurants’ kitchens?

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because it’s the kind of job where it’s hard with children and the hours. Because it’s male dominated, it’s hard to feel comfortable at first. But, you just have to dive in and face it head on. It’s hard, but I don’t think it’s held me back. I think it’s equally hard for a guy when you think about the number of chefs that exist and the number of ones that you read about. There are a lot of chefs who never get written about it. I don’t think it’s about men and women. It’s just a hard business. I decided to open my own business right now and not have babies. You have to make that choice, but it’s like that with any job.

Your husband, Chef Kyle Bailey, told us his favorite dessert you make is apple pie. What’s your favorite thing he’s made you?

Oh my God, I don’t know. I love when he cooks for me. I think at the restaurant, I really love any pasta he makes. He posts pictures on Instagram and I’m like, “I need to drive and get that right now”. I’ll text him and ask to bring it home but he always says it won’t be warm anymore. At home, we have a grill outside and it doesn’t matter what kind of weather it is, he’ll go out and grill something. He’s even jimmy-rigged it into a smoker and he smokes chicken. I actually do most of the cooking at home, so it’s a treat when he cooks for me.

We gave Kyle a chance to the answer this question, so it’s only fair to also ask you. What is the secret to working with your spouse?

That’s a good question. I don’t know if anyone really figures it out. As far of the two of us, we always support and value honesty from each other. If there’s something that’s great, we tell each other but we also tell each other if there’s something that’s not great. There are a lot of times you’re not sure if people are blowing smoke up your ass. We played a lot of pranks at Birch and Barley and, one time, I made a doughnut with garlic sauce on it and invited the Churchkey staff down to try it and they didn’t say anything! I said to Kyle, “See? We can only trust each other”. We’re always there to catch each other’s fall. We’re basically the other one’s sous chef. If something horrible happened and all his chefs walked off the line, he would call me and we would figure it out. As much as we depend on the people we work with, it’s nice to know there’s someone who has your back 100 percent.

We love everything we’re seeing from Buttercream bakeshop including the fun events like pop-ups around town. What can we look forward to next?

That’s a good question because I don’t really know myself yet. I actually don’t have a ton planned as far as pop-ups. I’ve got a couple things I’m trying to work out, but nothing solidified. Right now, I have so many wedding inquiries that I’m really focused on that. Most of my time is dedicated to growing so I can get a brick-and-mortar location. Right now, I’m just buckling down and keeping the business going.

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