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Gemma Pastry Chef Stephanie Childress Really Loves French Toast

Where she eats when she's not whipping up fancy desserts.

Stephen Rogers and Allison Yoder's Gemma has earned its fair share of commendations since opening on Henderson Avenue at the end of 2013, snagging the title of Restaurant of the Year from both D and the Dallas Morning News last year. A major player in Gemma's success has been pastry chef Stephanie Childress, who's won rave reviews for her creations like a moist, citrusy Basque cake and a rich chocolate pine nut tart. Of course, pastry chefs can't survive on tart dough scraps and whipped cream alone — when Childress isn't in the kitchen at Gemma making pastry magic, here's where (and what) she eats and drinks:

What's your favorite breakfast or brunch place?

Dining out for breakfast or brunch is one of my favorite things to do.  My breakfast go- to is French toast, and recently I had it at Crossroads Diner on Walnut Hill. Theirs is simply made with brioche bread cut three inches thick, served with maple syrup, fresh whipped cream, and a light dusting of powdered sugar.  The dining room has a chandelier made from Hobart mixer whisk attachments, which always makes a pastry chef smile. (As an alternative, if you want to make your own French toast, I recommend Empire Baking Company. Their challah bread is perfect for making Grand Marnier French toast at home.)

Where do you go for a quick lunch?

One of my favorite sandwich shops is Capriotti's, which is based in Las Vegas. They're mostly known for the Bobbie, which is a Thanksgiving sandwich that includes roasted turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Or there's the hot Philly cheesesteak, which is a 50/50 ratio of beef to gooey melted cheese.

What do you like to eat and drink after getting off work late?

When I get off work late, I prefer to travel closer to home in the North Dallas/Plano area for drinks and late-night food.  My favorite places are the Parkway Tavern and Whiskey Cake. The hummus and grilled flatbread at Whiskey Cake is the perfect snack before going home. After a long day in the kitchen, cold beer is what I enjoy drinking the most — either Bud Light or Sessions lager.

What's your favorite pizza place?

My favorite pizza is Taverna Rossa in Plano, the All American. It has Luscher's sausage, local bacon, turkey Canadian bacon, and pepperoni, as well as fontina and mozzarella cheeses.

Do you have a favorite burger in town?

My favorite burger is found at Kenny's Burger Joint in Frisco. My two favorites are the Bacon & Egg and the Pepper Jack Guacamole.  All of the burgers are made with a ciabatta bun, which provides the perfect balance of meat and bread. The Bacon & Egg has bacon, a fried egg, American cheese, and a creamy béarnaise sauce — that one requires a knife and fork.

What's your favorite ethnic restaurant?

I enjoy going to DaLat for late-night and ordering the curry meatball shooters.  I usually run into someone I know in the industry, which makes for great people watching — especially during karaoke nights.

Any other favorite restaurants elsewhere in the U.S.?

Terrapin Restaurant in New York's Hudson Valley. It's an an old restored church in Rhinebeck that's been transformed into an American bistro. My favorite dish is the barbecue duck quesadillas. Also, Bouchon at the Venetian in Las Vegas — I like this location because you'd never know you were dining on the Strip. While living in Vegas I dined here every year for my birthday. I appreciate their fresh baguettes, butter and housemade jams, plus the brioche French toast. Every dining experience at Bouchon was flawless.

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