By Food Service East
An ongoing series of interviews with chefs, restaurateurs and food service operators, Secrets of Success looks at the paths taken to professional recognition and acclaim.
Alina Eisenhauer attributes her love of scratch cooking to her childhood home and community where it was
“all I knew.” The experience elevated her palate and set her on a course of wanting to taste everything.
FSE: You say you always wanted to taste everything! How did this affect your culinary career?
EISENHAUER: I still want to taste everything! There are very few foods I don’t like or won’t eat – as a chef I think this is extremely important because it gives me a much wider range of tastes and flavors to pull from when creating dishes. I am always excited when I find a new flavor or ingredient I haven’t tried before.
FSE: What led to your offering your baking skills to a New York restaurant that opened in the Berkshires without a dessert menu?
EISENHAUER: I needed a summer job and my father, who was a contractor at the time, was hired to build the restaurant. I baked some desserts and brought them to the owner and she hired me on the spot.
FSE: From that first job, did you think you might be in for a culinary career?
EISENHAUER: For a time I did but at that time in the mid 80’s being a chef wasn’t thought of in the same regard as it is today and I was also afraid that if I made my passion my career it might take some of the joy out of it for me.
FSE: How did you wind up in the fitness world and what led you to leave after being a success medals/awards winner?
EISENHAUER: I really ended up in the fitness industry by chance…I started working out in college to avoid weight gain and, being a competitive person, this lead me into fitness competitions and a career as a personal trainer. While I did experience success in my fitness career, and enjoyed what I did, it wasn’t truly fulfilling and it wasn’t my passion.
FSE: You opened your first place, Sturbridge Baking Company, in 2003 and later added both breakfast and lunch. How did that expansion and shift in direction come about?
EISENHAUER: I outgrew my original location and realized that if I moved into a new bigger location, it would make more sense- labor and food cost wise- to expand what I was offering. The same is true of my most recent expansion of Sweet Kitchen & Bar.
FSE: What would say is the secret of your success and would you say to aspiring bakers/culinarians?
EISENHAUER: Living your passion! This career isn’t an easy one. I would tell anyone who aspires to being a baker or chef and is truly passionate about it to live, breathe, eat and sleep food. There is no better place to be in the world than a kitchen that allows you to create the kind of food that you are passionate about.
FSE: What’s the next step for you?
EISENHAUER: Right now, I’m into a large expansion, which is taking up a lot of my time. The plan is to eventually have more locations, cookbooks and a TV show…as my favorite quote goes: ‘if you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as
well think big!”
FSE: What advice do you give to aspiringculinarians?
EISENHAUER: Live your passion – this career isn’t an easy one, but if it is truly what you are passionate about, if you live, breath, eat and sleep food, there is no better place to be in the world than in a kitchen that allows you to create the kind of food you are passionate about!
FSE: What do you like to do for recreation?
EISENHAUER: I love to travel and of course, food is a big part of that. I also love the beach, stand up paddle boarding and surfing.
FSE: What’s in your refrigerator at home?
EISENHAUER: Cheese, eggs, light cream and herbs. (I guess I should make an omelet!)