If you ask Chef Emilia Tomaszycki what makes her happy, the executive pastry chef at Bonita Bay Club in Bonita Springs, Florida, will give you a two-part answer. “First, I love to put a smile on the face of the customer as they dig into my latest creation. Second, I like to see their reaction when they learn how old I am.” She’s 24.
Since earning her associate’s degree in baking and pastry at the Culinary Institute of Michigan (part of Baker College) in 2017, Chef Tomaszycki has worked in pastry kitchens in both hotel and country club settings. Most recently, she served as a pastry cook and supervisor for Ritz-Carlton locations in Naples, Florida, and Dallas before joining the Bonita Bay Club.
Chef Tomaszycki says her latest move into the country club sector has allowed her to branch out even further. “I get to have a kitchen of my own and develop an appreciation of what our members want, as well as create bonds and friendships with them,” she says. “I can create special occasion desserts, including birthday and wedding cakes. I also love that the audience includes many repeat customers.”
The Michigan native not only became accustomed to the warmer weather in the Sunshine State after growing up in a blustery climate but also took to the beautiful produce and tropical fruits that abound in this region. “I love all of the local produce that I get to use all year round and am particularly inspired by passion fruit, mangoes, pineapple, coconut, mamey sapote and papaya,” Chef Tomaszycki says. This past summer, when strawberries were at their peak, she created a popular dessert called “Rosé All Day,” which is served in a wine glass that is positioned on its side and anchored to a wooden board with a bit of glucose. The dish features fresh local strawberries in three forms: pureed for a strawberry cremeux; dehydrated and added to a crisp meringue that’s crumbled for the plate; and in their whole form as garnish, along with caviar-like bubbles infused with rosé wine.
This “delightful decadence,” as she describes it, at press time was being served daily at the clubhouse, which serves an average of 130 to 150 meals a day for the club’s roughly 5,000 members. Lately, Chef Tomaszycki has had the pleasure of making wedding cakes for many members’ children, who are about her age. “As part of taking care of the sweet side of catered events, I will be creating a new wedding cake tasting program,” she says. “I will also be upping the ice cream game, too, playing around with a brand new Italian ice cream machine and turning out frozen treats using those locally grown fruits.”
Prior to being hired full time, Chef Tomaszycki worked at the club as an on-call consultant handling food and equipment orders, food costing, budget planning and other duties that required collaborating with the current staff.
“Being led by a female in the kitchen was not something that every staff member may have appreciated at first,” she says. “But when they saw what I could do, I convinced them to follow my lead.”
Charisma and ebullience, in addition to talent, have helped Chef Tomaszycki come a long way already in her career. She made an appearance on TV as a competitor on the Food Network show “Chopped Sweets,” during which she was challenged to create a menu that included crazy ingredients like tarantulas (her dessert was a pate a choux-based churro accented with those creepy but edible crawlies). “Though I didn’t make it to the finals, I felt proud of pushing myself beyond what I thought I was capable of,” she says. She credits Amaury Guichon, a celebrated pastry chef in Las Vegas and creator of a pastry school program there, and Luis Amado, CEPC, a chocolatier and teacher in Michigan, as her model pastry chefs with this hard-working mentality.
As the executive pastry chef on the property, Chef Tomaszycki reflects on her teenage wish to be a pastry chef. “I was surprised to find out that my grandmother was a chef and a baker. Following in her footsteps two generations later grounds me.” But not all has been rosé and strawberries. In her relatively short time in the field, her meteoric rise to a leadership position has not come without its challenges, including an ankle injury that sidelined her for some time and having to prove her worth in certain kitchens. Despite these obstacles, and the long hours and high stress levels that can come with working as an executive chef in charge of management, when asking herself if this was really what she wanted to do for a living, the answer has always been a resounding “yes.”
“I think I am a fun person to work with, but I insist on training the staff to understand a sense of urgency, something I learned in culinary school, where we operated and supplied to an open-to-the-public restaurant,” she says. “I also stress the importance of following directions to the letter. Pastry is a precise art, and I know the importance of paying attention to the details.”
Chef Tomaszycki has her sights set on earning the title of Certified Executive Pastry Chef, and she hopes to build back her staff, starting by bringing in recent culinary school grads, as well as interns, in an effort to share her passion and training. As chefs, she says, “we get to work with the best ingredients, so we need to respect them.” Follow Chef Tomaszycki on Instagram @pastry_panache.