Looking back, Patrick Devine realizes he was tricked into working in the kitchen. "I had some cousins who worked in restaurants when I was growing up," the La Patisserie Chouquette (1626 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-7935) assistant pastry chef recalls. "They would take me back into the kitchen and let me 'play dishwasher' because I thought the machine was so neat. I think they were just getting me to wash the dishes for them."
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Growing up with both a mother and father who loved to cook, Devine caught the kitchen bug at an early age. He carried this passion with him to high school, taking a few culinary classes to fill requirements. Though he enjoyed the coursework, he didn't think of it as a viable career path until a person came to speak to one of his classes about culinary school. "That's when I realized that I didn't want a job where I had to sit at a desk all day," Devine explains. "Plus, it seemed like job security. People are always going to go out to eat."
Immediately after his high school graduation, Devine enrolled in the culinary arts program at the Art Institute in Houston. He planned on completing the standard degree, but the school added a pastry program just as he was about to graduate. He decided to give it a shot and was instantly hooked. "At first, I thought it would be good because it was a way to get a second associate's degree in just six months," Devine explains. "But then I realized how much more I loved it than the savory side of cooking."
Pastry's aesthetic and technical aspects appeal to Devine. "There's a challenge to it," he notes. "If you don't do something exactly the way you are supposed to, it doesn't turn out. Plus, I think it is more visually appealing than savory."
However, the real reason behind his love affair with pastry boils down to something more personal: his sweet tooth. "Really, I just think it tastes better," he admits. "People get really excited about desserts. Generally speaking, more people light up about a really well-done, tasty dessert. This field is all about trying to please people, and I think dessert is the best way to do that."
Devine took a break from making his signature "Darkness" croissant (a chocolate croissant made with dark chocolate dough, 72 percent chocolate butter and pink Himalayan sea salt) to share his thoughts on the St. Louis food and beverage scene, his growing photography portfolio and why it's hard working across the street from his food crush.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
I love photography. I’m currently focused on food right now, especially for the Chouquette social media, but like most things I’m continually learning and trying to improve.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
Coffee! I’m not much of a morning person without it, and working in a pastry shop, it’s pretty important to be firing on all cylinders as soon as the day begins.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Definitely the ability to fly. That would the awesome!
What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
Probably the focus on specific crafts or specialties. We have gotten past the phase of everyone trying to do everything on a mediocre level and are pushing into doing "a thing" or a few things well. Bread, pastries, coffee, butcher shops, ramen, fried chicken, barbecue — you catch my drift.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Currently it has to go to Union Loafers. They just opened right across the street and I have probably eaten most everything on the menu already.
Who’s the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene?
I’m having a really hard time choosing just one person here. I have my eye on Qui Tran and Chef Marie-Anne Velasco and this ramen shop they’re working on.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Butter — versatile, flavorful and delicious.
If you weren’t working in the restaurant business, what would you be doing?
The whole coffee industry is really fascinating to me, so I think I’d be interested in pursuing something there.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
What is your after work hangout?
Usually at home with my wife and our three-month-old daughter, Sutton. She’s pretty awesome.
What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
DOUGHNUTS! I'm so glad to have Vincent Van Doughnut in town, but if I have to, I’ll gladly go for Krispy Kreme or even Schnucks — haha.
What would be your last meal on earth?
Beef Bourguignon. I’ll take a braised meat over a filet any day of the week.
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