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Freeze Frame: Heather Chittum

Sweetness and flight.

December 2005

Name: Heather Chittum

Age: 32

Occupation: New pastry chef at Michel Richard's Citronelle

Background: The Brooklyn native moved to DC to work on the Hill. After four years as a pastry assistant at Equinox, Chittum took over the ovens at three Foggy Bottom restaurants—Circle Bistro, Dish, and Notti Bianche, where her husband, Tony Chittum, is chef.

"I worked for Senator Moynihan for 41/2 years. I started as an intern and then became a legislative correspondent. It was a hard thing for me to look inward and realize I wasn't really happy.

When I told my father I was leaving Senator Moynihan's office, it was hard. Talk about a proud father. He's got my business cards, they say Moynihan on them, the gold raised seal. My dad's a sculptor, but he always very much wanted me to be on a track. I definitely wanted to please him. But I remember thinking, if I don't try cooking now, I'm gonna regret it for the rest of my life. I had just turned 28, and I thought I was so old.

When I started at Equinox, things just fell into place. When I was in the kitchen, I knew who I was. And then I met Tony there.

It was like leaving the nest again when I left there. And then again when I left Tony and the three restaurants. It was hard.

But you know? Working with Michel Richard, it's like getting a master's in pastry. There's so much to learn. The other day he was putting the butter on the puff pastry with a paint roller, and here I am standing there with my old pastry brush. I'm not ever going to think like Michel Richard, but I can try to emulate him. Now when I go to Home Depot I'm like, 'Hmmm … how can I use that tool?'

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