Tableside Chat – Katherine Clapner
Recognized for her love of dark chocolate and skulls, Edgë Chef Katherine Clapner is the visionary and head chef of Dude, Sweet Chocolate in Dallas, TX. With over 20 years of experience as a pastry chef around the world and two chocolate shops, this Oütlaw dedicates her time and expertise to discovering unique flavors and ingredients that give her creations an unforgettable twist.
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Chef Clapner about her views on food, her inspirations, and what kitchen tool she can’t live without. Here’s what she had to say:
Q. What was your first job as a professional cook and what was that like?
A. I would say it was my first job out of culinary school. The Savoy Hotel. Man that was a beating. I started cutting fruit for hours upon hours on end and went from a commis to a chef de partie in three years. I learned so much, and did it back when there were no human resources to speak of, and still loved every minute of it. Did I mention it was a beating?
Q. Can you point to any family member, or cultural influences or traditions that have inspired you?
A. I have to say my parents, as we went out to eat a lot when I was a kid and ate all cultures of food. My dad has become a great cook recently as well. All traditions and cultures inspire me, as they are created out of what is available, and to me that is far more interesting than any modern techniques.
Q. How do you shop for your ingredients? Have you formed special relationships directly with farmers and other suppliers? What is the greatest advantage of doing this?
A. I usually do a lot of research or have things brought to me. I’ve received things from several of the same folks for several years now, and if I see something they find it. I am lucky in that respect as, it keeps things fresh, and allows me to learn about what I do not know.
Q. What point of view are you trying to convey through your chocolates?
A. Let go of any preconceived notions about chocolate and have fun. You never know what you will end up liking if you do.
Q. What’s your favorite part about what you do?
A. Discovering a new ingredient or just being in a store and having a moment where I see something in a new light. I like everything about what I do except computer work.
Q. Whose work within the culinary world do you follow and admire? Are there chefs, pastry chefs or chocolatiers you look to for the next big idea?
A. First, I do not look for the next big idea as at that point it has already passed. I do love what Askinosie, Pacari and Pierre Marcolini do as chocolate makers. However, I really look to savory chefs for inspiration. They have become such visual artists with a delicacy in plating that is beautiful.
Q. In your assessment, what 3 characteristics define a great pastry chef?
A. Being patient in the kitchen, solution-oriented, and a dare-devil.
Q. What was your introduction to WÜSTHOF knives?
A. A cook’s knife that I purchased in 1989 that I still have. I get really emotional if someone else uses it. It is a work horse!
Q. What kitchen tool could you not live without?
A. Immersion blender.
Q. What does defining the Edgë mean to you?
A. Just the fact that I (a chocolatier) am in the campaign should be enough. It is a campaign about defying definitions, and about educating with passion.