Like many Government majors, Heather Chittum was smitten with the ring of "Congress" and "filibustering ." She was into the White House, not chef whites. So when she graduated from Massachusetts’s Clark University, she headed straight for the Hill to work for then New York Senator Daniel Moynihan. Four years later, she transitioned into another very Washington realm–the non-profit sector. Her job at Share our Strength (SOS), an organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger, combined food with politics. It also connected Chittum with some of the country's best chefs.
In 2001, Chittum left the political scene for the world of pie molds and flourless cakes. She studied pastry at L'Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg. Once graduated, she landed a job at Equinox, as then-pastry chef Lisa Scruggs’s assistant. She moved on up to become head pastry chef at Circle Bistro, Dish, and Notti Bianchi, where husband Anthony Chittum was head of the kitchen. Then she left for Citronelle. Working under the city's bearded culinary genius Michel Richard was a huge career move, especially since he's a 15-year pastry chef vet himself.
Now, Chittum is back in charge as pastry chef at the three-month old sustainable fish restaurant Hook in Georgetown. Espousing executive chef Barton Seaver's "no farms, no food" philosophy, she orders only locally-grown ligonberries and buttermilk from free-range cows. Maybe it's her political justice days creeping up on her again, but food and politics have always gone hand-in-hand for this Washington pastry chef. Here are some more of her favorite things.
Ice cream or frozen yogurt?: Ice cream, hands down. I love the rich creamy texture of ice cream, and I've really enjoyed playing with different flavors. I've always loved ice cream–my dad used to take me for coffee ice cream when I was a little girl.
Favorite salad dressing: Balsamic vinaigrette–it's simple, but incredibly versatile. There is a balance of acid that makes it right on so many dishes
Best food town: New York–it's a hometown thing.
Favorite type of pie: New York has so many apples, so we were always making pie or apple butter or something. Again, it's a childhood thing and a simplicity thing. It's classic and to make the perfect apple pie just makes it a good day.
Favorite music for the kitchen?: Aretha Franklin, any hip-hop, and the Gipsy Kings. I have fairly eclectic taste in music. Some of the guys in the kitchen have turned me on to new artists like Jamie Cullum, who I love. I guess it just depends on my mood that day.
Favorite sentimental family dish: Chicken Yorkshire. I like simple things, and I'm very nostalgic.
Fettuccine or penne?: Fettuccine when it's all homemade–everything gets twisted together and creates a beautiful texture. It's more of an experience to eat a bowl of fettucini.
Favorite berry: Blackberries AND raspberries–they are sweet and tart at the same time. I'm big on balance of flavors. They also pair well with other fruits. When I hear "blackberries" I automatically think peaches.
Mild or hot salsa?: Hot salsa. It's more fun, and it awakens your taste buds.
Favorite type of donut: Glazed–you can't go wrong with anything that's glazed. Simple, basic, do you need anything more?