Chef Elizabeth Falkner is one of the culinary world’s most recognizable chefs and a leader in the culinary scene. For more than twenty years, she wowed the San Francisco/Bay Area with her desserts, then with two Michelin-recommended restaurants – Citizen Cake, a multiple award winning restaurant, bar and patisserie, and Orson, a popular restaurant and bar.
Today, she is the Executive Chef of Corvo Bianco, a Coastal Italian restaurant on Columbus Avenue in the Upper West Side of New York City.
Falkner is a multiple award winning chef and a James Beard Foundation Award nominee. In 2006, Bon Appetit named her “Pastry Chef of the Year” and three years prior, hailed her as one of “America’s 10 Top Pastry Chefs.” In 2005, she was nominated for “Pastry Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation and has been a featured guest chef for Foundation dinners. Named “Best Pastry Chef” by San Francisco magazine and a “Rising Star Chef” by the San Francisco Chronicle, Falkner also has been both a leader and a mentor to many other chefs, working closely with Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR), who awarded her a Golden Bowl award in 2003.
A lover of culinary competition, Falkner has competed in multiple culinary competitions including Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef, Redemption,” “Iron Chef America” and “Next Iron Chef, Super Chefs,” in which she was a finalist and runner up. She has been a three time competitor on “Food Network’s Challenge,” as well as a contestant on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.” In addition to competing, Falkner also has acted as judge on several network shows including Bravo’s “Top Chef Just Desserts,” “Top Chef Masters” and “Top Chef.”
Falkner also has consulted for numerous products and brands including Pillsbury, Starbucks, iSi, Hershey, General Mills, Nestle, Nabisco, Kraft, Pepsi and more. Most recently, she joined Holland America Line’s Culinary Council.
Falkner’s first cookbook, Demolition Desserts (2007) was a finalist for IACP’s Julia Child Best First Cookbook award in 2008. Cooking Off the Clock, her second book, was released August 2012.
Falkner currently serves on the board of directors of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and is the incoming president. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier.
A graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute with a particular interest in film, and a long time soccer player, Falkner often finds culinary inspiration in film, art, music and sculpture as well as team sports.
Food & Beverage Magazine had a chance to ask WCR President Elect Elizabeth Falkner a few questions.
What’s your first memory of your love for cooking?
- Baking with my mom and grandma, especially pies, cookies and canning. Also my mom’s dad made great peanut brittle and caramel corn
When did you know you wanted to be a Chef?
- When I moved to San Francisco from Los Angeles, it was the mid -1980’s and the food revolution was happening. It was hard not to want to be a chef. So I worked on it starting in 1989.
Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?
- My real training started at Masa’s in 1991 and it was very French kitchen and fine dining with a chef from Spain, a sous chef from Japan and expeditor from France, and a very famous kitchen. It was intense and orchestrated.
What do you love most about your job?
- I love working with people to put on a production every day/night and making our guests feel great.
Describe your style in three words.
- grounded, adventurous, surprising
What’s your favorite dish to create?
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
- Mostly I draw inspiration from what I want to eat or where I want to travel with my food.
What four ingredients are necessary in your kitchen?
- Flour, olive oil, tomatoes, fennel
If you could prepare a meal for anyone, who would it be and what would you make?
- I love making chocolate chip cookies for my brothers, honestly, they get stars in their eyes.
What are you most proud of in your career?
- The stamina and determination.
Who is your biggest supporter?
- Most of my chef friends and especially the pastry chef friends are my biggest network of support.
What would you want to have as your last meal?
- A Neopolitan margherita pizza
Are there any foods you just don’t like?
- Artificially flavored and fast food!
What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?
- Water content. Getting it just right.
Do you do the cooking at home?
- Yes, I live alone and cook for myself at home after work, often.
Funniest kitchen incident?
- I work in a multi language kitchen and funniest times are when something is just lost in translation.
Favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
- Wood burning oven or grill. And combi ovens.
Tell me 3 things that you consider to be your cooking strengths.
- Unique combinations, finessing classic combinations with better techniques, working any station when needed and not afraid to.
If you had just one wish, what would it be?
- I would love to see educational cooking shows have a revival on television as well as slow food techniques in fashion again rather than 20 minute cooking and shortcut cooking.
Are you working on any big projects now?
- The restaurant project I am Executive Chef of, Corvo Bianco is a big 5 month old project.