Pictures of Faith by Claudia Mak / @claud.soigne
Who is this beautiful brownie making angel, you ask? Faith Taheny was a ray of sunshine for me and still is for most at the Goats (Girl & the Goat / Little Goat Diner / Duck Duck Goat / Baobing / Cabra), Stephanie Izard's powerhouse restaurants dominating Chicago's West Loop. In these dark time I want to highlight the gems in my life and share them with you! Here she is in her words....
Who are you?
Faith Taheny What was your title before COVID-19?
Executive Pastry Sous Chef for the Goat Group (Girl and the Goat, Little Goat Diner, Duck Duck Goat, Baobing, and Cabra)
Where do you live? I live in Humboldt Park in Chicago. I live in a cute little house in a quiet little neighborhood.
Tell us about where your training... My dad taught me how to bake when I was young. Everything he did just made sense, but I thought that if I was going to get into baking professionally I should learn the “proper” way to do things. I went to school at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago. On my first day in the kitchen I was the student who cut themselves. I always hated onions and had avoided them my entire life. On the first day in the kitchen we had to cut an onion (I know you’re thinking...but you were in pastry school? Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too!) and I cut my thumb very badly. I ended up having to drop out of culinary school in order to go to months of physical therapy, BUT I went back! My schooling at Le Cordon Bleu was wonderful, I met amazing people and had wonderful teachers (some of whom I am still in contact with today) and during my second time of the basics of cooking I passed the onion cutting test!
How did you get your current position? After pastry classes I got the externship I wanted at a cute little bakery that I loved. I thought that I only wanted to work in a cute little bakery, baking for restaurants never crossed my mind in the beginning. Well, it turns out I kind of hate mini cupcakes, but even more than that I hate lying. This bakery ended up being not at all what I was looking for with all of the cakes and brownies being made from box mixes and other things that I wasn’t okay with. Don’t get me wrong some of the people I met there are incredible and as a first real baking job I still learned a lot, but I knew it wasn’t for me. I ended up baking for a little coffee shop in a train station briefly working on my muffin and scone skills, but that wasn’t enough. One day one of those things of serendipity happened. My roommate leased a car to the owner of a restaurant group and his chef. They were looking for a pastry cook. I went in and was hired on the spot. It was the shortest interview of my life with the main question being, “Can you read a recipe?” I worked baking at this restaurant in the morning while still bartending at my longtime job at P.F. Chang’s at night. I was working 16 hours a day multiple days a week because honestly baking wasn’t enough money but I loved it. The pastry chef at this restaurant, Topaz in Burr Ridge, quit with no notice. He called in sick one day and then never came back. I had some of his recipes and some things he taught me and that was it. I ended up becoming the “Pastry Chef” because I was the only one there. I went on to be the only pastry person/pastry chef if you will for the entire restaurant group: Topaz, Amber, and a brand new restaurant Citrine. Needless to say I learned a lot, and quickly, out of necessity. It was a whirlwind, but there’s only so much you can teach yourself and I knew I wasn’t done growing. My boyfriend (now fiancée) Anthony, whom I met working at Topaz, found out that Nate Meads had recently become the Pastry Director for all of Stephanie Izard’s restaurants and Girl and the Goat had a posting for pastry cooks. Anthony told me, “if you want to learn anything and go anywhere in this city than Nate Meads is the guy you want to work for.” Anthony had worked briefly for the same restaurant group as Nate previously. I went and staged, my first real stage ever, and ended up not getting hired. (They has just hired someone so they were no longer hiring) I was persistent and emailed Nate after my stage and told him if something opened up I was still interested. A few weeks later he contacted me, I put in a month notice and trained new people at my current restaurants (don’t burn bridges ya’ll) and ended up starting as a pastry cook at Girl and the Goat and Duck Duck Goat. A little less than a year later Nate asked me to be his sous chef and the rest is history!
How much notice did you and your team have before the restaurant shutdown in Chicago due to COVID-19? On Sunday March 15th Steph got news that there were new regulations happening. It started with no more than 100 people could be gathered in one place and very quickly became notice that restaurants would have to close by midnight on Monday March 16th. Steph personally came to all of her restaurants and talked to all employees telling us that Sunday would be our last night of service.
What was done with all the food in the restaurants? Steph had all of the chef and management teams gather all of the food from the restaurants and had all of the employees come get groceries. We gave it all away. It was incredible seeing how many people showed up and how much we were able to help. This was on Monday March 16th, since then once a week Steph has provided Goat-ceries to anyone who wants/needs them. It’s been incredible and so helpful! If you are not being paid, how are you about to create an income?
I was put on Furlough and needed to sign up for unemployment. I still haven’t heard anything yet due to the crazy amount of people who have also signed up so I am just being patient. I am grateful we ended up getting one more week of pay for the time we came in and deep cleaned the restaurants to have them be in good conditioned to be closed. We have a gofundme account for each of the goat restaurants set up by employees, we also have one for BRG (Boka Restaurant Group), in addition to that Steph’s team have designed cute tshirts that are for sale that say “we’ll Goat through this together!” Going from crazy hours for years to NOTHING, how are you handing this and what are you doing to filling your time?
The first two weeks for the hardest. I thought I was going to be so productive, deep cleaning the house, start a new hobby, read a bunch of books, etc. I didn’t, at all. I learned that when you spend so much of your time and energy and care at work and with the people you work with and that’s so rapidly stripped away from you, not doing it is EXHAUSTING! I spent the first two weeks binge watching tv, and eating A LOT. I don’t think I even baked the first week. It was crazy. I now am doing a little better and try to do one productive thing a day, you don’t have to do everything. I also have started baking more because that’s what makes me feel normal. I also have tried to start exercising hoping that it will become a healthy habit! Also, I have been looking at lots of wedding stuff; Anthony and I are still hoping that we can have our wedding next spring!
If you were able to know this was coming, what would you have done to better prepare yourself?
If I knew this was going to happen, I would have been kinder to myself in the beginning. I would have not been so mean to myself for not being productive. I also would have stocked up on more chocolate
After this is over, and you can go back to work, will your views on restaurants change and in what way?
After this is over I think my love of restaurants will be even stronger. The people who make them, the work that goes into it, it’s beautiful. I miss the chaos and the beauty; and I am so beyond grateful for the love and support I have received before this and during this.
What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream, wow just a few tiny words with such a huge amount of meaning behind them. After all of this it’s kind of scary to say but I would love to own a building with a cafe in the bottom and a home above it. I would love to work with Anthony again. Bake delicious goodies, sell so many sandwiches, and have all of my love under one roof.
Tell me the craziest thing that has happened to you at work.
There was one time during my first Harvest Fest working at little Goat when a BEO was misread and we didn’t make all of the cakes needed for a wedding! Two of the bridesmaids came to pick up the cakes to drive to Michigan for the wedding and we were a 10” cake short. They said they couldn’t wait. I assembled a 10” cake in 6 minutes for them to take with them!! It was a different flavor than it was supposed to be, but with all of the fear and anxiety from the bridesmaids and the couple on the phone, we ended up getting a thank you call from
the couple after the wedding because the groom said the chocolate cake I rushed to make was the best cake he had ever had! Talk about a fast fix!!!
I have definitely had crazier things happen at work like power outages and even someone coming in with a gun when I was a server in Arizona... but this story was the first thing that came to mind!
Social handles/email/restaurant location/ anything you would like others to see for a visit or follow!
restaurant location @littlegoatdiner (sometimes I teach fun classes)
3 sticks & 6 Tablespoons butter
1 cup dark chocolate (2 bars dark Ghirardelli)
3 cups & 1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon & 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup & 1/4 cup sour cream
1.25 teaspoon salt
1 cup & 1 tablesppon AP flour (at this point of social distancing, whatever you have in the cupboard)
1 cup cocoa baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Coat 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
Line with parchment and coat that with cooking spray. Set aside
Mix cocoa powder and flour together
Mix sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and sour cream
until well combined
*Double Boiler: pot with low rising water and a heat proof pot or bowl resting on top of it (see above pics)
Melt chocolate and butter together
Add 1/3 of the egg and sugar mixture to the melted chocolate and whisk. This step drops the temperature in the chocolate and prevents scrambled eggs (not what we are looking for)
Add ALL the chocolate mixture to remaining egg and sugar mixture. Whisk completely.
Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and fold together scraping the side.
Pour batter into prepared baking dish
Bake for 20-25 min on middle rack
rotate and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, checking for proper baking time by inserting a toothpick into center. Once the toothpick comes out clean, it is done.
LET COOL on a rack... this is the hardest part! It will take a few hours!
When cool, top with powdered sugar and enjoy!
I like to cut into SMALL cubes and freeze on a sheet tray lined with parchment. After frozen I pace in a freezer bag. I love eating them frozen, the texture is perfect!
Support Faith by following her on Instagram @faithtaheny show her some love!