Gabrielle Michaud has a sweet job and she knows it. The 24-year-old native of South Portland is the pastry chef at Walter’s, a Portland restaurant offering lunch, dinner and a late-night bar menu, along with Michaud’s desserts, at its Two Portland Square location.
“In October of 2014, I joined the team at Walter’s when Chef Buerhaus took a leap of faith and offered me this amazing opportunity,” said Michaud.
Michaud grew up in South Portland, graduating from Catherine McAuley High School in 2009. She went on to study culinary arts while working on her associate’s degree in liberal arts from Southern Maine Community College. She said she feels fortunate for the chances she has had to develop and hone her skills both in school and since receiving her degree.
“While I was in school, I worked at a small cafe? in South Portland called Cambridge Cafe?,” said Michaud. “It was there that I started baking and really started to think of myself as a pastry chef. I enjoy being creative and it offers me a very satisfying way to express my creative side. From there, I enjoyed stints at Two Fats Cats and Foley’s, both well-respected bakeries here in town.”
Michaud said being a successful pastry chef means balancing science with creativity.
“While recipes are great guides, I try to mix that up by being adventurous, bold and fun. For me, work is about making people happy and creating memories,” said Michaud. “I think being a great pastry chef takes a lot of practice, trial and error. Because you are (hopefully) always experimenting, not everything will come out perfectly the first, second, or even third time. But, if you have the dedication and drive to learn from mishaps and mistakes, you can definitely succeed.”
The young chef also loves being able to share her sweet tooth with other people.
“The fact that I get to have my hands in sugar every day makes me one of the happiest people in the world. I wake up very early every morning enthusiastic about going to work and challenging myself to create desserts that are different and interesting. From baking bread to making buttercream frosting, my creativity never stops flowing.”
Inspiration for Michaud comes from exploring new recipes, new ideas and new techniques, along with “reading the millions of cookbooks” her mom and grandmother own.
“It’s a great way to see how I can improve on something, but it’s also a window into retro desserts and trends. Often I see an old-fashioned dessert that inspires me to put a new twist on it,” said Michaud. “My personal goal, at present, is to work on perfecting my cake-decorating skills.”
When she’s not working, Michaud tries to stay as active as possible.
“Thankfully, I really enjoy running. Since I need to taste everything I make, I definitely need to be sure I stay healthy,” she said. “I also coach girls soccer and lacrosse at the high school level, and my sweet golden retriever, Lux, loves hiking and going to the beach with me.”
In the future, Michaud hopes to own her own dessert bar and try her hand at teaching.
“I was very fortunate to have some awesome mentors, and I think that had a lot to do with my success,” she said. “I’d be honored to help someone else as they learn their craft and launch their career.”