Top Chef Chris Hanmer Finds a Home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Chris Hanmer started his culinary career with humble beginnings at age 15 at the local country club in Costa Mesa, California. Of course, at the time, he never realized that that job would launch him on a worldwide adventure that included a stint on television and culminated with his own patisserie on busy Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
How did it all begin?
“A chef moved in next door,” said Hanmer, “and he offered me a position peeling potatoes at the country club.”
Apparently, this was a step up in income from his paper route and his new job grew over time. The chef was making desserts, and after assisting him and gaining a taste for sweet confections, so to speak, he graduated high school and went to culinary school at Orange Coast Community College in California.
“I got a job at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Nigel as a pastry cook,” he continued. “I worked my way up the ranks.” Following that, Hanmer left for Maryland where he spent time as an assistant pastry chef for a Swiss importing company in 2002.
All this experience paid off and led to employment with the Maryland International School of Confectionary Arts where he assisted a world famous pastry chef. This gave him the opportunity to travel all over the world giving demonstrations and participating in international pastry competitions with sugar and chocolate.
In 2003, based on his burgeoning reputation, an opportunity arose for Hanmer to oversee 15 of the pastry-related outlets at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, including the world-famous Jean Phillipe Patisserie.
His next stop on the confectionary road to success was as the executive chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Las Vegas in 2008. “We did world pastry team competitions,” he said proudly, and won a gold medal in one of them.
Unfortunately, the Ritz-Carlton closed its doors and Hanmer decided to open his School of Pastry Design and offer his consulting services. All the while he was continuing to compete and in 2011, he received major accolades after taking top spot in Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts season two. “It was grueling,” he says, “we worked 12 to 18 hours a day and when it was over, it was a joy…and a relief.”
After his first daughter was born the same year, he and his wife, Caryn, weren’t quite sure what to do next. Feeling that the prices to start a business in Las Vegas were too costly, they began to think about other locations.
“Caryn was from Sioux Falls and after visiting friends and family we began to realize how much it had changed over the years. We would hang out in downtown and eat,” he said. Then they began thinking, if we did a (patisserie) shop here, it would be amazing…and affordable!” Since Sioux Falls didn’t seem to be as affected by the downturn in the economy, they reasoned that the town and the people were ready for this sort of eatery.