Kitchen Confidential: Susan Allan Block’s Vendome Pastry

. August 5, 2015.
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Originally from Massachusetts, Susan Allan Block is a graduate of Wagner College with a degree in Economics.  After 20 years living and working in New York City she followed her dream to become a Chef.

In 2009 Susan completed “The Art of International Bread Baking” at the International Culinary Center, NYC (formerly the French Culinary Institute) – a professional certificate program that gave her the skills to work as a pastry intern at the famed “Le Cirque” restaurant. 

While there, Susan decided to move to Paris as a non-traditional student and study classic French pastry techniques.  In France, Susan completed a professional certificate program at Ecole Gregoire-Ferrandi, followed by an internship at Potel et Chabot, the oldest and  largest catering company in that country. As part of the internship, she was one of several chefs who provided cuisine for a party at Versailles for 8000 – her most prestigious and memorable event.

Susan completed a 3 level professional cuisine program at the Ritz Escoffier Cooking School and worked at L’Espadon, the Ritz Hotel’s Two Michelin Starred restaurant. In addition, she participated in several south western French regional cuisine courses taught by Kate Hill – American expat, author and chef.   

Since moving back to the United States Susan has made her home in Toledo, Ohio with husband Allan, their standard poodle, 3 potbellied pigs and many chickens.  After her studies she took time to get used to being a newlywed, renovated a house and participated in many charity events. Then she began looking for a business model that she could embrace.

She opened Vendome Pastry in October, 2014. She found the perfect spot for her well-designed kitchen where she began making her specialty – fabulous tarts that are delightfully flavorful and sought after. She experiments with new flavors and techniques and now features tarts for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

Susan is an environmentalist and student of “Permaculture,” a farming methodology that creates agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.  Her interest in the Locavore and Slow Food movements is the force behind her quest to partner with local producers and vendors to source the freshest, most sustainable and seasonal ingredients for her European style dessert and pastry creations. 

She gets her eggs, goat cheese and chickens from Tom Kosek – Acorn Hill Farms in Petersburg. Her maple syrup comes from Rinckey Bros in Temperance and Sofo Foods is also a source. She has partnered with the Paula Brown Shop in downtown Toledo as an additional outlet for her tart sales.

Susan has traveled the world and explains that the cultural dining differences between Europeans and Americans is noteworthy. In Europe people enjoy the entire process of dining – honoring the palate with fine foods and wine, often taking hours in the process. In the US we seem to have a different mindset about the process, because of the busy lives we lead, and therefore have come to embrace faster food.

But she goes on to say that US Chefs have done very well in the World because they understand innovation better and know how to streamline and modernize the industry.

Susan is a member of many boards and charities, and she realizes how many charities operate on limited resources. She is currently working on a way to invest in the community by fostering local partnerships and contributing to charities in a meaningful way. She is certainly the Queen of Tarts.

For menu information www.vendomepastry.com

Susan’s Favorite “Salad de Maison”

Here is a very simple salad – It’s an entree but you can leave out the meat & or make it smaller for a side dish.

• 1 Fennel bulb

• 1 English cucumber

• 1 large bunch of large radishes

– larger radishes are easier to grate

• Tomatoes – heirloom, beefsteak, grape,      cherry – whatever you prefer

• 1 store bought or homemade rotisserie      chicken –

• 1 – 2 avocado or prepared guacamole

• 2 lemons

• Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• Salt and Pepper

Wash & dry vegetables. Don’t peel the English (“seedless”) cucumber but if you have a big “waxed” cucumber you may want to peel it. Cut the very bottom of the fennel off & then cut in half from top to bottom (there are usually at least 2 long “fronds” – you want one of these on each half to use as a handle). Cut radishes off the bunch but leave some of the greens on top to use as a “handle”. Alternate grating the fennel, cucumber & radish.  Mix the slaw together a little – you can use hands. Add Extra Virgin Olive Oil and lemon juice to taste, salt and pepper then toss well. I like the freshness of the citrus and the fact that this dressing allows the flavors of the vegetables to be the star, but you can use any dressing you like.

Place a 1 portion mound of slaw in the middle of a dinner plate, arrange tomatoes decoratively around. Top the mound w/either 1/2 of the rotisserie chicken breast or 1/2 of the avocado (peeled, de-pitted, sliced into a fan). If using both chicken and avocado  put the chicken on top & the fanned avocado on the plate. Sprinkle avocado with a little lemon juice to keep it from browning.

Optional special equipment: an inexpensive hand held mandolin like slicer. 

The ones with porcelain blades don’t oxidize the vegetables.

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