Girl on the Grid: Rachel Wallace of Ella's
By Chantel Elder
To kick off my little project of “Day in the Life” portraits, I thought I would begin with a subject that I LOVE…desserts.
I am that kid that couldn’t wait to be an adult just so I could have dessert for breakfast, which is exactly what I did Wednesday morning.
I ate three of the most divine desserts I have ever had in my life. Meet the genius behind those deserts: Rachel Wallace, the executive pastry chef at Ella.
Ella Dining Room and Bar (1131 K Street) is arguably one of the loveliest restaurants our little city has to offer. They are known for their exceptional services, the freshest ingredients, and a refreshingly creative perspective when it comes to pairing flavors that your mouth will do cartwheels for.
While Rachel is one of the very few ladies that make up the culinary crew, her attention to detail commands well-deserved respect from her male counter-parts. And they made sure to let me know at the first opportunity they could.
As a teen, Rachel didn’t imagine she would grow up and become a pastry chef when she was messing around her kitchen, making banana cream pies for her Dad. She didn’t even know she would grow up to have a culinary interest. Once she discovered that food was more interesting then just cramming it in your mouth like I do, her interests turned to meats.
She enrolled in San Francisco’s Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy, and while pretty much blowing off the pastry section of her studies, she dreamed of one day owning her own butcher shop full of the finest meats. While she went through school she worked at Harris’, a well-known steak house in the city.
After graduation she moved back to Sacramento, landed an internship and then a position at Ella when it opened. A pastry position opened up as she worked up the ranks, where she found herself challenged with the idea of baking. The once “too girly, pastry world” that she had previously showed no interest in, proved to be perfect for Rachel’s meticulous nature.
When I showed up to Ella on Wednesday morning, my dream job began by checking out the kitchen with Rachel. She chatted with me about how she comes up with ideas for deserts and showed me sketches of the beginning phases of some of her current menu creations.
Much like art, she starts out with a blank canvas…or plate that is. The difference between a painter and Rachel is that a painter will head on down to University Art and purchase canvas and a tube of pain. At Ella, everything is from scratch – meaning they “make the paint.”
That seems obvious for a high-end restaurant, until you see someone make a caramelized banana tart with coconut ice cream with passion fruit caramel topped off with dried plantains as a garnish OR olive oil ice cream (really it is delightful, trust me!). Every. Little. Thing. Rolled, dipped, creamed, whipped, piped and churned, everything is made from the bottom up.
After I saw the energy, ingredients and time that went into each dessert (and also after I got to eat three of them), I was curious as to the price of these beautiful creations. I was totally surprised to discover that they were really reasonable! The desserts range from $6-$10.50, with a variety of rich and decadent for a super sweet tooth, to lighter options for someone looking to calm their palate. Whatever the choice, Rachel’s desserts are the exclamation to a fabulous meal!
Go check it out Rachel’s current menu; it is sure to change as the season, so feel free to frequent Ella. Even if you don’t want to spend the money on an all out dinner, you can pop in for a glass of wine and a sweet treat after a long day at work.
Guest blogger Chantel Elder is a partner at Eleakis & Elder Photography (Land Park) with a background in photography & marketing. Aside from loving all things photography, I also am a self proclaimed “dog lady.” I love cheese of any kind (accompanied by wine), gardening (even though my fiance says my thumb is black), and I will try just about anything once. I have a very serious distaste for Barry Manilow (how did he get famous anyway?!) and in my spare time I can be found blogging all of my photographic discoveries. If you would like to follow my own weekly rants and raves, my blog can be found at http://chantizula.blogspot.com.