Chef Chat, Part 1: Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar
Rebecca Masson is one of Houston's top pastry chefs and proprietor of Fluff Bake Bar, her online pastry shop. This petite woman's fiery energy and drive has taken her far and wide, from Wyoming to Paris to New York to Houston. This week we're chatting with her about her famous Fluffernutters, the origins of her wild nickname, the Sugar Hooker, and her role in dog rescue activism.
Masson's famous Fluffernutters and the main ingredient: Fluff.
EOW: You trained at the Cordon Bleu and lived and worked in Paris for two years. What are some foods you miss from France?
RM: I miss the classics, like a baguette. I'll never find a French baguette in the US, unless they import the flour, import the water and import the oven. I mean, it's just really hard to do. I miss going into the patisserie and thinking, "Okay, which one do I want today?" We don't have the same appreciation for the classics, and I think that when we look at desserts, it's almost as if we look at these steakhouse desserts that are huge, like a big piece of cake, instead of something like a macaron. It's a bite or two bites and it's perfectly done, the perfect amount of sweetness, and it's very satisfying. I understand why as Americans we do that, because we want more bang for our buck. We think if it's going to be really big, it's going to be really good, but that's not always the case.
EOW: How did you make your way to Houston?
RM: I was a pastry cook at DB Bistro and at Daniel in New York. While I was at DB Bistro I used to go to work at Daniel on my days off. Because I wanted to work at Daniel so bad, I wanted to prove it. So I did that and a couple more pastry cook jobs, and my first real pastry chef position was at the Biltmore Room. Then I was pastry chef at a place called the Red Cat for almost two years, and I loved that job. And then I decided I needed something bigger and better, so I was the opening pastry chef for BLT Prime. I just up and left New York, went back to Denver for about six months and I interviewed in LA, Dallas, and Philly, and here at 17 at the Alden Hotel. I fell in love with the kitchen, and became great friends with the sous chef Tracy Hartman. And the bonus is that my mom was here, which was great.
EOW: How long have you worked for yourself?
RM: Since last January. It's been about a month since we put the website up and started actually working to get a business plan done and looking at spaces to do a retail spot. I gave myself one year from September, so if it's not done before then, I have to walk away and find a real job.
EOW: You made 300 Fluffernutters this week. What exactly are they?
RM: Traditionally, they are white bread with Fluff marshmallow filling and peanut butter but I've taken it one step further. I use oatmeal-peanut butter cookies, peanut butter cream and Fluff in the middle.
EOW: What are your plans for your retail shop?
RM: During the day, it'll be a bakery grab-and-go, and we'll do custom cake ordering. But at night, I'm going to do plated desserts and serve beer and wine. So if you're on a hot date and you want to go somewhere for dessert, you can come see me. I will have cheese plates, but that's as far as I'm going into the savory world.
EOW: Right now what are some of your biggest sellers?
RM: I sell so many Fluffernutters, I should buy stock in peanut butter. I'm doing a lot of Christmas parties right now, so brownies, popcorn balls, and cakes. I'm also selling a lot of Bouches de Noel, a yule log cake with meringue mushrooms on it.
EOW: You learned how to make Bouche de Noel in France?
RM: I learned the French way, and then I learned the American way. And this is a combination of both.
EOW: Besides the holiday season, when is another big time of the year for you?
RM: Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and graduation are all big times of the year. I also work with Lucky Dog Rescue Shelter and do a lot of events for them throughout the year. We did a bake sale last year for Lucky Dog, and we'll do it again this year. Also, we've done a seven-course tasting for them and the first time we did it, it was just Tracy Hartman and I. We did three savory courses and four desserts and capped it at 40 tickets and raised $3,500 for Lucky Dog. So when we were done, I thought, "I can make this bigger and better, I have a lot of chef friends who will donate their time." I had seven different chefs with seven different courses and beer, wine or cocktails paired with each course and a silent auction. Seventy people came to it and we raised $6,500.