Christina Allen-Flores is the pastry chef for the Royal Sonesta, Boston. She started cooking as a child at the hand of her Irish grandmother, when she was about four years old. It started out as a hobby and she grew up with it.
“I baked for kids and families I was babysitting for as I got older. It became a real hobby.”
She grew up vegetarian and picked up all the recipe cards with whole grain flours. She was part of the 4H Club in Mystic, Connecticut, with which she also cooked. However, at the time, she was not interested in getting into it as a career because she didn’t want her love for it to be destroyed.
The only problem was that she couldn’t find anything that she liked as much. So, off she went to Johnson & Wales and her love for cooking grew, and she’s been doing it ever since. She bakes a lot at home and has taught her kids how to cook. She says she feels quite passionately about pastry.
The Daily Meal: How does it feel to do this today full time?
Pastry chef Christina Allen-Flores: I am grateful, it is something I enjoy. You work a job 8, to 10, to 12 hours a day for 5 to 6 days a week for years, you should enjoy what you are doing. And I very much enjoy what I am doing. The hours fly by — sometimes a little too quickly.
What is your relationship like with your suppliers, purveyors?
We want local, seasonal produce. We love the New England seasons and want to reflect that. I go out to farms myself with my children, we go strawberry picking in Ipswich, Massachusetts and apple picking in Danvers. Locally grown is definitely the way to go.
What is your philosophy regarding organic produce?
Organic is wonderful, but if you have something very fresh and local, it doesn’t have to be organic. I have children so of course I prefer fresh, local, and organic.
What are your plans for the future?
I am very much enjoying working with the Sonesta. I had stepped out of the hospitality business to raise my children so I’ve only just jumped back in 6 years ago, so I am enjoying this right now. Of course I have always had an interest in owning something of my own once the kids are grown and gone; the long term goal for me when I retire is to make two wedding cakes a week, and that’s it! That would be my dream job. Locally grown is definitely the way to go.
Can you share about your work with allergies?
We do a lot of allergen desserts since I’ve come here to the Sonesta. I’ve helped to create menu items specifically for guests who are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan that didn’t exist before. We go from decadent to responsible. We have breakfast pastries like coffee cake and croissants and the fare people look forward to when they are going out or visiting, but we also have local clientele interested in our vegan items, such as our home-made granola bars in different varieties and our gluten-free baby cakes and also our amarretti, which are gluten-free.
We try to hit everyone so that they will enjoy finding something delicious that is suitable to their dietary requirements. With the awareness of allergens nowadays, people are much more knowledgeable of what their allergies are and with my own personal experience, I am happy to be able to give our guests delicious choices to eat.
How large is your staff?
Five, including myself.
How do you cook for vegetarians and vegans?
I am vegetarian, and I have to be careful of my sugar intake, so that kind of plays into when my kids were growing up I did all kinds of recipe alterations with different types of sugars, so it’s not always just white sugar. It’s also how I came up with a lot of vegan items, because as a vegetarian it’s easy to eat baked goods, because you are okay with dairy and eggs. It’s when you are a vegan that you have more of a hard time, and with those who are allergic to dairy or eggs.
Favorite thing to make?
That’s hard! I have two groups — I love artisanal breads, and I love wedding cakes — and I love everything in between.