Freeze Frame: Heather Chittum

Sweetness and flight.

By: Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Cynthia Hacinli

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?'