Chef's Table - Overnighter

Armed with an undergraduate degree in biology and a master's in psychology, Detroit native Jacqueline Drake moved to Atlanta ... and couldn't get a job. So she reached back into her high school dream bank and decided to enroll in culinary school. With so many outstanding student loans, she didn't expect to qualify, but she graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta in June 2001. The 33-year-old has been the overnight baker at the Four Seasons Hotel for a year. Before that, she worked the hotel's chocolate buffet.

Creative Loafing: Must be tough working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Drake: It's quite rugged. Your body is meant to sleep at night. At one time, I worked overnight 3 a.m.-11 a.m. But when I am here by myself, I am all over the place, all the tables are filled and I can get more work done. People are pushing you out of the oven by 6 a.m.

Do you listen to music while you are baking?

Yes, V-103 [WVEE-FM]. I blast it, too. Sometimes I am a little tired and it keeps me thinking and keeps my hands moving and rolling when a good song plays. The night passes extremely quickly.

How much creativity goes into your work vs. having "set" corporate recipes?

There aren't really corporate recipes. I have a lot of creative range. We develop something and make it a standard. I like to experiment: What draws me into a shop and makes me turn my head from side to side? I also really draw from family influences, especially my dad, who has developed into a cook beyond belief.

Do you enjoy eating pastry?

I pinch a bit every now and then. I like the miniature lemon tart and the salted caramel tartlet. I'm seldom in the mood to gorge. If I can't relax and sit down when I eat, it doesn't feel like a meal.

What kinds of things do you make?

Anything with flour, butter, sugar and eggs. Croissants, danish, foccacia, biscuits, lavash crackers, muffins, cornbread for stuffing, cinnamon buns, breakfast breads, pizza dough, brioche. Anything especially for banquets, the dining room [Park 75], the bar and room service.

I'm guessing that at a five-star hotel, guests can make special requests.

Yes, I can make almost anything. But I tell them I need 30 minutes. Four Seasons is one of the only hotels in the city that makes everything from scratch, or 98 percent of everything. You don't go to culinary school to pull things out of a box. You really want to get your hands dirty and I am really getting my hands dirty!

-- Suzanne Wright


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