We believe in supporting local, partnering with others in the community, and working together to make this town strong and vibrant.
We believe it’s fun to use this blog to highlight some things you might not know about Ashley’s Pastries. We’re starting a fun blog series over the next couple of months where we introduce you to local chefs.
Today we’re doing a Q&A with local chef Summer Key, owner of Key Ingredient Catering.
Chef Summer Key is an American Culinary Federation award-winning certified chef. After years of learning and honing her skills, and working with renowned chefs, she started her own catering business, Key Ingredient Catering, located right here in Dayton. Not only does she cater parties and special events, but she also offers private chef services.
We recently caught up with the busy chef.
Ashley’s Pastries: What is your favorite dish to make?
Summer Key: People ask me often what my favorite dish to make is and I always say a good Chef can make pretty much anything! I am classically trained and worked under a French/ Creole cooking phenomenon, so that is heavily influenced in my cooking. My favorite food to eat is brunch. I think it is because as a Chef we work a lot of brunches so eating brunch is a luxury. I always feel like I am cheating when I get to enjoy it. If I am out eating brunch, in my mind, I feel I should be working the line and helping. I can hear the Chefs clanging pans and calling orders. It makes the hair on my neck stand up as I try to listen. I just can’t help it!
AP: How did you get started in this business? What was your first culinary job?
SK: I have had two awesome chefs in my life that have really done so much for me. If you know me personally, you know who they are because I speak about them often.
I started culinary school at Sinclair and my first teacher in my first culinary class set the tone for my career. Lighting a fire in me that I now know will lead me like a beacon on my path. His name is Chef Anthony Head, owner of Chicken Head’s. He continues to help me and mentor me along the way. He never lets me feel sorry for myself or give excuses. I joined the competition team after he told me, ” You WILL be joining”. It was one of the best things I have ever done.
The next year I was asked to be the captain. In the first three months of meeting him, Chef Head had me working with him on catering jobs for the top caterers in our area: Kohler, Scratch Food Catering and Fresco.
On my way to earning a bronze metal in the ACF state competition, I worked my first culinary full-time position for Jen Disanto at Fresco. I was working for chefs, doing events and catering part-time when they needed extra help and attending culinary school. I received a call from James Beard award winning Chef Anne Kearney that changed my life forever. She is my mentor and the angel on my shoulder whispering, “You’ve got this! You’re a rock star!”
I started working events for her, then working my way up the line. I say working for Anne was the hardest and best thing I have ever done. Nothing great is ever easy, and this certainly wasn’t. She decided to move to Tampa and I helped open her restaurant in Florida for a couple months, traveling back and forth in the beginning. That’s when I started getting requests from our Rue Dumaine clients and Anne’s friends to cook for them in their homes. I enjoyed that greatly and just started growing more and more from client referrals. Now here I am, letting my food speak for itself. I truly love all of my fabulous clients and their families.
AP: What are the top three items every kitchen should have?
SK: Every Chef will tell you the same thing:
- A sharp good KNIFE. Dull ones are dangerous.
- Next I say a gas stove top range. You can see the amount of heat coming out and it’s a lot hotter than electric.
- Lastly, I would have to say a Kitchen Aid mixer because you can do so much with it and the attachments. Making ground sausage in the casing or fresh pasta. A must have!
AP: If you could have dinner with someone, who would it be?
SK: Professionally, I would love to have dinner with Julia Child to speak of traditional cooking techniques that are not used today, but should be.
Personally, I would definitely choose my dad. He died at 59 and did not get to see all the things I have done and am now doing with my career. He loved chocolate pie so I would make him one– well, many of them if I could! He instilled a strong work ethic in me, always leading by example, which is the best way!
AP: Tell us a little more about Key Ingredient.
SK: Key Ingredient Catering came from working hard for my Chef and Mentor,Anne Kearney. I was devastated when the best Chef we had in our city left me here without her. She offered a new career in Florida to an almost 45-year-old mother that was unable to move her family. I felt well who could I work for now? Had I just had my career high point?
But soon her clients and friends started asking me to cook Anne’s food for them. So I did. Then I started cooking them my food and they loved it, too. They started telling people at their work, and their neighbors and friends.
My career success is 100% because of the chefs that have pushed me along the way. Hard work always pays off every time! I am a lucky chef because even though I have worked really hard the path has come easy. Isn’t that always the best way? When it’s right you can feel it.