Photos: Sarah Corder
Alexandra Motz has been the Executive Pastry Chef at renowned restaurant Spoon and Stable located in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis since 2021, where she uses the mentorship model to inspire collaboration and growth. She joined the restaurant’s pastry team under the leadership of Chef Diane Moua in 2014 and has since risen through the ranks. Aside from her work at Spoon and Stable, she creates and produces mignardise for Demi, Chef Gavin Kaysen’s fine dining restaurant in Minneapolis.
Throughout her career, Motz has worked locally for chefs like Shawn McKenzie at Burch Steakhouse and Tim McGee and Mike DeCamp at La Belle Vie.
One of 16 recipients of the 2022 “The Art of Plating Rising Star Award,” the chef has used her passion for visual artwork to inspire a love for the artistry of plated desserts. Her creative process is influenced by the vivid colors of the hyper-local products and worldly flavors from all over the globe.
Why did you choose this profession?
I went into the culinary profession, and more specifically, baking and pastry profession for the artistry. I was completely consumed by the idea of making immaculate wedding cakes and chocolate sculptures. Being a creative human, I wanted to find a way to express myself as well as take my artistic upbringing in a new form. I have worked in many small bakeries, restaurants, and even a cake shop before I fell in love with the culture of fine dining and the artistry of plated desserts.
At Spoon and Stable you started as a pastry chef de partie in 2014, in 2015 you were promoted to pastry sous chef and since 2021 you are the executive pastry chef. What do you find most fascinating about your job? What is your method to motivate your team?
I love my job! I am constantly stimulated and motivated to continue to do the best I can for the guests and more importantly, my team. I am very fortunate to have a job that keeps me very busy, and hyper motivated through connections with colleagues, local farmers, and a strong leadership team. I motivate my team through teaching and mentoring them. I try to share my knowledge of ingredients and techniques, and in return they teach me new things everyday as well. For example, I always involve them when discussing new menu items to also get their input or feedback. I have seen this to be the greatest and most rewarding motivator by creating the culture around teamwork.
“I motivate my team through teaching and mentoring them. I try to share my knowledge of ingredients and techniques, and in return they teach me new things everyday as well”
How do you coordinate with the chef? Do you have absolute freedom to plan your desserts or do you depend on the chef?
I create the dessert menu. In a series of tastings, I take constructive criticism (as all chefs should!) for tweaks or improvements. No dish or menu item is ever perfect, there is always another way to evolve the dish even if it has been on the menu for years. I strongly believe in collaboration, as well. Having conversations around menu development with my team and the savory team is a big contributing factor when writing the menu.
Do you think that the figure of the pastry chef has the professional and social recognition it deserves?
Yes and no. As a pastry chef, I believe there are so many different genres of pastry you can specialize in this profession. In my opinion, only a handful of pastry chefs are recognized to the greater audience for their specialization in showpiece or high profile work. In the media, you cannot taste the food, but only see photographs. A plated dessert can have just as much color and allure as a chocolate showpiece, wedding cake, or entremets. I’d really love to see more attention brought to plated desserts and their ingredients highlighting the artistry of plating. Every person eats with their eyes first, and then with their taste buds. The visual “WOW” of a beautiful presentation will give the consumer the initial impression, but the taste will keep them coming back.
“A plated dessert can have just as much color and allure as a chocolate showpiece, wedding cake, or entremets”
What inspires you to create your desserts?
I am inspired by color, seasonality, and my team! I design my desserts around seasonality first. I see what is in season and build a dish highlighting that fruit. But, let’s not forget chocolate! Many people are chocolate and caramel lovers, I also try to cater to these guests. I’ve provided a mix of both worlds in the recipe section, which you can see in the Chocolate Butter Caramels recipe and Hummingbird Torte recipe.
How do you define your desserts, what makes them special or different, or why should someone try them?
My desserts tend to be very bright and intentionally plated. I try to use nature’s natural ingredients and geometry for color as much as possible. I make desserts that are not overly sweet, and are based on familiarity to the guests in Midwest America, where I reside. They are also craveable and sometimes nostalgic.
“My desserts tend to be very bright and intentionally plated. I try to use nature’s natural ingredients and geometry for color as much as possible”
What is your signature dessert and why is it your favorite?
Any desserts that highlight fresh fruit and nostalgia can be considered my signature dishes. These are my favorite because they’re fresh, bright flavors and very playful. I have a dish called Peaches & Cream that brings back memories of a simple childhood snack. Our Strawberry & Sorrel Sherbet is a nod to your local ice cream shop. The Hummingbird torte, whose recipe I’ve shared, is a play on a Southern classic.
In 2022, as a Ment’or BKB Grant winner, you worked for a month in Bali at Room 4 Desserts with Will Goldfarb and discovered tropical ingredients. What did you learn from this experience? Has it helped you in your work at Spoon and Stable?
I learned a greater knowledge of the ingredients and produce pastry chefs in western culture take for granted. Savory chefs have traditionally had the privilege of knowing their farmers and their ingredients in more depth than pastry chefs. For example, we use coconut, passion fruit, and mango pretty regularly in the pastry world but those ingredients do not grow here in the States. Pastry chefs use sugar, chocolate, and a handful of tropical fruits daily that come from a box. It was very enlightening to go back to the roots of these ingredients, their culture, and the industries that were built to have a better sense of what I use everyday. I also learned a great sense of patience, adaptability, and perspective for the pastry chef role. This has helped me in my current role to expand my outlook and help me continue my career journey and purpose.
“Savory chefs have traditionally had the privilege of knowing their farmers and their ingredients in more depth than pastry chefs”
Also in 2022, you received the Art of Plating Rising Star Award. Does winning recognition of this type make you even more self-demanding?
I have always strived to do my best in everything I create for myself, the team, and the guests. Although, I don’t necessarily think an award changes my drive to do the best I can. This was a huge accomplishment for me and I am grateful that my work is being recognized.
What will pastry, in your opinion, be like in the future? What are the tendencies for the next few years?
I think the art of pastry will continue to grow towards nostalgia and playfulness. Desserts are meant to be a treat, and fun! I also believe highlighting the sustainability of the ingredients will become more of a priority in the pastry world. Both pastry chefs and consumers will start to learn more about the history and where their sweet treats come from.