Chef Chat: Nancy Boehm Is Fearless in the Face of a Peach Pie

Sep 10, 2015 at 7:00 am
Nancy Boehm - Photo by Mabel Suen
Photo by Mabel Suen
Nancy Boehm

Nancy Boehm of Pint Size Bakery (3825 Watson Road, 314-645-7142) remembers the first time she baked a pie. She was somewhere around ten years old and heard her mom make a passing comment about a bowl of overripe peaches as she headed out to the store. "She said, 'These will be great for a pie,'" Boehm recalls. "I  thought, 'Pie — I can do that.'" By the time her mom had returned, Boehm had a from-scratch peach pie cooling on the counter.

Boehm credits her fearlessness with getting her to where she is in the pastry world. "I've never really been afraid to try new things," she explains. "Like with my first pie, I just opened a cookbook and followed directions. It never occurred to me to be scared."

Boehm has approached her culinary career with the same confidence.  Having grown up in a house where everyone cared about food, she was inspired at an early age to pursue cooking. Her mom was her mentor, making all of the family's food from scratch and teaching her the importance of having real food as a part of everyday life.

After high school, Boehm enrolled in Johnson and Wales culinary school in Rhode Island and immediately decided to focus on pastry. After some  time working on the East Coast — including at the prestigious Mount  Washington Resort in Bretton Woods — Boehm returned to St Louis to be  closer to her family. She took a job at Le Cordon Bleu as a chef instructor, where she met Pint Size's founder, Christy Augustin.

"Christy wanted to open a bakery and we talked about doing it together," recalls Boehm. "I just wasn't in the place to do it at the time though. At my wedding, my mom actually went up to Christy and told her to talk  me into it. It worked and I've been with Pint Size for a little over a year now."

Boehm laughs when asked about her cooking relationship with her mom now that she is an established baker. "Well, my mom was always more of a savory cook," she notes. "But there was a really strange turning point  where it went from from her critiquing me to me critiquing her. But we work well together."

Boehm took a break from making Pint  Size's signature salted caramel croissants to share her thoughts on the St. Louis food and beverage scene, what she'd be doing if she wasn't a chef and why lavender should stay in the garden. 

What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
I am a total introvert. I need a certain amount of alone time every day to recharge my batteries

What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
A hot shower before I go to bed. I’m pretty infamous in my family for using up all the hot water. It’s one of the only things that really helps me relax and clear my head.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I often think it would be great to have an extra set of arms; especially when I’m working. Unfortunately it would be really hard to find shirts.

What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
I have noticed a trend towards very casual and approachable food. So many chefs are cooking the food that they love to eat like fried chicken, barbecue, tacos and other street food. It’s not fancy, but it’s executed with the same care and passion that we expect in a fine dining restaurant.

Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Southern’s Rick Lewis is pretty dreamy. Who doesn’t like a man who can hunt, grow and cook his own meals? Mostly I just think he’s a sweetheart and very lucky to have his equally sweet wife, Elisa.

Who’s the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
Definitely Marie-Anne Velasco. She is opening a noodle shop with Mai Lee’s Qui Tran early next year. She is a ball of smiles and energy plus she truly loves and understands food.  I can’t wait for that ramen!

Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
A former coworker used to call me Peaches. He said I was fuzzy on the outside with a soft and sweet inside, but at the very center I was hard as a rock. That seems about right.

If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
I really think I would enjoy being an accountant. There is a part of my brain that is very logical. I love problem solving and making all the numbers fit together just right is always fun. Plus, I could have a manicure and wear cuter shoes to work.

Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
Lavender. I don’t care how subtle it is, anything made with lavender tastes like  fancy bathroom soaps. I had my mouth washed out with soap a couple times as a child. It’s not pleasant and I don’t want to repeat the  experience.

What is your after-work hangout?
I’m a homebody for sure, but lately I’ve had a lot of fun at the Skyview Drive-in. We pack a cooler and toss it into the back of our old pickup with some pillows and blankets then head across the river to Bellville. A double feature is only $10. It’s very nostalgic and a great way to spend the evening.

What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
Most mornings my husband, Jason makes us breakfast sandwiches. Nothing fancy, an egg, turkey bacon, some whole grain toast and a slice of cheese. I usually request American cheese on mine. It’s so melty and  perfect on top of that egg. Plus it glistens in the morning sunshine. I know there are a million better cheeses out there, but for breakfast, I go American.

What would be your last meal on earth?
A cheese and charcuterie board with crusty bread. It would have to include Humboldt Fog and a gooey Taleggio along with chicken liver pate, pork rillette, and a nice capicola. Throw in some spicy mustard, fresh  fruit and roasted nuts for good measure.