A chef making the lockdown experience a little sweeter
Celeste Smith is accustomed to working 15 to 16-hour days. But she never complains about the hours because her job is her passion, and she enjoys it. So, for the pastry chef, staying at home and not engaging in her craft, as the country shut down in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, was unappealing. Smith said she had to keep herself busy. The end result was a six-part series she dubbed “The Sweetest Lockdown”.
She would produce a variety of pastries for people to enjoy while locked down at home during the weekends, and make the experience a little sweeter. It was also a way for the chef who works in the hotel industry to put money in her pocket. She is among thousands of employees who have been temporarily unemployed for nine weeks.
“This whole lockdown experience was a whole eye-opener in the sense that you should always become creative, and think of ways in order to further yourself,” said the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar Café Madeleine pastry chef.
Baha Mar suspended operations on March 25 until further notice.
At the property’s initial closing, Smith said, she found herself pondering what she could do, as her mind just would not shut off and she was consumed with thoughts of pastries and flavors. It was as she thought about what she could do that the six-part series came to her.
She debuted “The Sweetest Lockdown” featuring cheesecakes with flavors that ran the gamut – from guava, cherry and pineapple to Oreo.
Orders are placed by the Thursday evening with deliveries made on the Friday, for sweets to be enjoyed over the weekend.
“It was basically inspired because I am a pastry chef. Every weekend I would produce different pastries depending on how I feel, to make people smile with desserts. So, on Friday nights I would send out a flyer saying what I was making, so people have the option to select what they want, and I do the delivery, all the while bearing in mind being safe.”
Her second sweet lockdown experience introduced her fans to monkey bread, a pull-apart treat that those people in the know, know is undeniably addictive. Smith describes it basically as “cinnamon bun on crack”.
Smith, who was also a member of The Bahamas’ 2019 team to the Taste of the Caribbean competition, then delved into the swoon-worthy chocolate offering for part three, for which she featured a chocolate poke cake – chocolate cake infused with milk chocolate ganache, topped with chocolate whipped cream and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce and white chocolate shavings. It’s called a poke cake because of the holes that are poked into it and filled with flavor.
Her Mother’s Day lockdown weekend offerings featured intricate bite-sized gourmet treats – miniature bourbon apple pie crumble, macarons, mini French chocolate entremets (multi-layered mousse-based cake with complementary flavors and textural contrasts) and guava cheesecake bites.
Contemporary island style was the order of the day for week four as Smith paid homage to Bahamian roots and featured down-home island-style sweet treats with a twist – banana bread with five-spice streusel topping, and pineapple upside down cake
With so much to peruse, the down-home swing was so popular that she continued with it in part five, offering coconut tart, pineapple tart and drunken rum cake.
What she produces, she said, depends on her mood, how she’s feeling and how creative she wants to be.
“It was a chance for me to keep my hands busy, because once a chef, we’re always in the kitchen. Sometimes, I’ll whip up a family meal at home just to keep my hands occupied. People always say, ‘Celeste you’re always in the kitchen,’ – but that’s my love and that’s my passion ever since I was a little girl,” she said.
Keeping herself busy, she said, has aided in her personal well-being and self-motivation during the global health pandemic and at a time when she finds herself unemployed.
“It’s so unfortunate that this pandemic has happened, but the flip side to it, I feel as though when this is all over, a lot of people will really have an eye opener to say they can become their own entrepreneur. There are a lot of hidden talents within us and to utilize it. God gave each and every one of us with a certain talent and it’s time for us to use it. I really hope that when this whole pandemic is over that things would go back to running smoothly. Obviously, it’s going to be a slower pace than usual, but hopefully, God’s willing, things will be back to normal as soon as possible,” said Smith.