Get to Know Hotel du Pont's Executive Pastry Chef
Michele Mitchell talks chocolate, cupcakes and her precious paring knife.
Michele Mitchell, pastry chef at Hotel du Pont//Photo by
Food trend I love:
Those premade dinners that get shipped to your house and you mix all the ingredients together yourself. There are tons of them now. I think it’s a brilliant idea. A lot of people don’t have the time, or don’t know how, and would love to be able to do stuff for themselves. For families that are split in five million different directions nowadays, kids going to sports here, music lessons there. I can see how that might bring family back together, which is very, very important.
Food trend that should go away:
This stupid cupcake trend. When you don’t bake from scratch, it’s easier. But I can’t take our pound cake recipe and make cupcakes out of them. It just physically doesn’t work. So we’ve had a lot of trial and error. We finally got it down pat, and I swear the trend is on its way out.
Ingredient I love:
Chocolate. I love it, and I think it’s more versatile than people give it credit for. I don’t necessarily go the savory route, though I know you can—but you can make cake, you can make icing, you can make ice cream. It’s my favorite ingredient.
Tool I can’t live without:
A pastry chef has five tools that they use all the time: Their off-set spatula, their paring knife, their serrated knife, their bench scraper and chef’s knife. I tell every new pastry chef we’re hiring, and every extern who’s coming to try out with us, you need to bring at least those five things with you. But my paring knife, because I’ve had it since my first day of culinary school at Johnson & Wales, is known as “The Precious.” I lost it once in the shop. Everybody stopped what they were doing to find The Precious. I’m not going to share where it ended up, but they found it.
My favorite cookbook:
The very first book I ever bought seriously. I was in France, at the Valrhona chocolate school, and Frederic Bau was there. I ended up getting his book, “Au Coeur des Saveurs.” He had just published it.
My favorite restaurant:
Locally, it would be Domaine Hudson. There’s been many a time we’ve gone there, and we’ve had the most amazing dishes, the most amazing experience. It didn’t matter what we ate, it was amazing. But the one place we’ve been to more than any place else in Delaware is Pizza by Elizabeths. And outside Delaware would have to be one of Jean-Georges restaurants in New York.
My final meal:
It would be, like, a 12-course meal, because how do I choose just one thing? My No. 1 entrée is filet, with bernaise sauce and some form of scalloped, au gratin potato thing. And I love foie gras torchon with Champagne. Dessert would have to be anything that’s ultimately, amazingly chocolate. But there would also have to be my mom’s steak and kidney pie, cottage pie, shepherd’s pie—that’s just the way it is.