Q&A: Pastry Chef Dwayne Ingraham


Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

Freundschuh: What do you do for a living?
Ingraham: I’m an executive pastry chef. I work
out of Esther’s kitchen, but I produce all of the
desserts for [Odette] and Esther’s Eatery.

Freundschuh: Where are you from?
Ingraham: I’m originally from Boothville, La.

Freundschuh: When did you first get into
culinary arts?
Ingraham: I had my first restaurant job around 2003. I started off as a server. I went to college originally in Hattiesburg, Miss. I worked for a restaurant called Chesterfield’s. In 2006 I went off to culinary school at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt.

Freundschuh: How long have you been in Florence?
Ingraham: Since November 8.

Freundschuh: How do you like it here?
Ingraham: I like it! It’s big enough that it keeps me entertained, but it’s not too small that I can’t find a McDonald’s if I need one.

Freundschuh: How has your experience at Esther’s and Odette been so far?
Ingraham: The experience has been wonderful. It’s been a lot of putting my stamp on things and kind of getting my systems in place. As for the company, the staff, the people I’ve met, it’s been amazing.

Freundschuh: What do you think makes you unique as a chef?
Ingraham: I think it’s the culmination of “me,” meaning I grew up in southern Louisiana, down near New Orleans, so I bring that view to my cooking. Then I went to culinary school in Vermont, so then there are some of these techniques that I learned there. Then I took off and I lived in Vegas, and I worked for hotels and casinos there for awhile. I think what’s unique about me is I’ve found a way to take an accumulation of all these past experiences in my life and find a way to convey that in what I serve.

Freundschuh: What motivates you in life and in work?
Ingraham: In life, what motivates me is having to pay the rent. The idea of wanting to do well and to be successful, the ability to stand on my own. From a work standpoint, what motivates me is I enjoy trying to tell my story about what I love about food and what I love about pastry and trying to share that experience through food with guests.

Freundschuh: What do you love about food and about pastries?
Ingraham: what I love about pastries, from a technical standpoint, is that there’s a roadmap to success. I have the brain of a pastry chef, which means that if I use the same ingredients and I follow the process, I’m going to get the same result every time. From an eating standpoint, as a kid, food was surrounded by everything from our good times to our bad times to celebratory moments. I love that you can eat something and be transported back to a moment in time or an event that happened in your life. I also love the camaraderie that food brings. Typically it’s one of the items that we don’t mind sharing. We love, as humans, to commune with each other and share food. That lovely feeling is just kind of breaking bread together.

Freundschuh: What is your proudest accomplishment?
Ingraham: I’ve had some wonderful moments. I’ve been on the Food Network many of times. I won “Best Baker in America” season one. I’ve done a lot of those things. I think the proudest moment though was probably when I opened my bakery. I owned my own bakery for a short period of time and that was really a very happy time. I picked everything out from the flooring to the tiles on the ceilings to the plates to the silverware. It was really a piece of me that was brought to life.

Freundschuh: What do you do when you’re not cooking/baking?
Ingraham: I love trash TV. I love a good episode of anything probably that runs on Bravo. I also really enjoy board games. Sometimes I’ll
have friends over and have game nights and those kinds of things.

Freundschuh: What future goals do you have?
Ingraham: The future goal is to retire. The only thing I would say that I’m still looking forward in my life to really doing is I’ve never traveled abroad. Being a pastry chef, I would love to visit France one day and eat as many baguettes as I can while I’m there. There’s not really much that I want for. I think I was pretty blessed. I have a great family, great friends. I have clothes on my back and a place to lay my head, so there’s not really much more I can ask for besides that.