Caroline Schiff

With no professional culinary training Caroline Schiff pushed her way into the New York culinary scene by working part-time as a cheese monger at The Green Grape and interning as a line cook at Chef Sohui Kim’s The Good Fork in Brooklyn, NY. Schiff later got the opportunity to work at James Beard Winner Chef Galen Zamarra’s restaurant Mas (la grillade) in New York City, where she worked her way up from Assistant Pastry Chef to Executive Pastry Chef. Most recently Schiff was the Executive Pastry Chef for sister restaurants Marysville in New York City and Kenton’s in New Orleans.

After seven years as a restaurant chef, preparing plated and composed desserts, Caroline was ready for a new challenge – everyday desserts. Around the same time, her old boss from the little Brooklyn cheese shop, The Green Grape, explained how the company had grown to over four locations and offered Caroline the Executive Pastry Chef position.
Chef’s Roll recently caught up with Caroline, and she shed some knowledge on her journey.

How did your love for baking/cooking start?

From the time I was a little girl, food was always fascinating to me. I wanted to spend all my time in the kitchen baking and cooking. There was just something magical about it to me – especially dessert. I also remember loving restaurants; there was always something so special about dining out. I’m not sure if I could really put my finger on one thing in particular, but there’s something in me when it comes to food. It has always ignited a passion in me!

You have a French degree from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where you were involved in fashion. Is becoming a pastry chef something you’ve always aspired to be?

I think food has always been the thing I’ve loved the most, but I’m a visual artistic person in everything I do. And that’s where pastry comes in. Its so visual and so artistic; people expect pastries to be both visually appealing and delicious.

With no formal culinary school training, how did your pastry career begin – especially in New York’s intimidating culinary scene?

I just knew I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else, so I pushed my way in. The first restaurant chef I worked for, I started as an intern. She said “you can either pay to go to culinary school and then pay off that debt, or work for free for a bit and learn with me”. To this day, she remains an incredible mentor to me. Thank you, Sohui Kim! (Chef/ Owner of The Good Fork and Insa Brooklyn)

How have your travels influenced your baking/cooking style to this day? What influences you now?

Having the opportunity to live in Europe for as long as I did was a privilege and I’m so grateful for it. I think it influenced me in a huge way by exposing me to so many different cultures, styles of cooking and baking and hyper local food traditions. Now, I feel so many of my influences come from being home. I’m on my home turf and I draw so much from what I see people enjoying on a daily basis. I also love going back to the things I loved as a kid: cupcakes, cookies, lemon bars…those things never get old. My Jewish heritage has also been a big influence. I adore making (and eating) challah bread, rugelach and babka! It’s comfort to me and reminds me of my family.

What was the most challenging aspect of transitioning from a Pastry Chef to an Executive Pastry Chef?

Managing others was the biggest challenge. Chefs are control freaks by nature, but once you have a team, you need to be able to teach, delegate and let go! I had to force myself to do this so I could put some energy into other important aspects of the role, such as food costing, menu development, scheduling, ordering, human resources, etc.

You were the Executive Pastry Chef for both Maysville in New York City and Kenton’s in New Orleans. What was it like to create a menu for two locations in two distinctly different cities?

It was fascinating and a huge challenge. These are two cities with their own distinct, rich culinary scenes and the local availability was strikingly varied. In New York we had apples and pears while during the same month in New Orleans, we had half a dozen varieties of local citrus. It was fun having so many options to get creative with!

“I want to continue to be a part of helping our group of business grow, and have a positive impact on our community. I just want to keep doing what I love.”

You’ve come full circle from being a part-time cheese monger at The Greene Grape to now being their Executive Pastry Chef. What is it like to be back at The Greene Grape?

It certainly does feel like coming full circle, and I feel like I’m home in a way. I owe so much to the company. They really mentored me and gave me the opportunity to get my feet wet in the professional culinary world. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for such a long time as well, so over the years I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of seeing the company grow and getting to know their team. Coming back to the Greene Grape has been like getting closer with a group of friends you’ve always enjoyed hanging out with! I’m glad that upon my return I’m able to bring more experience to the table.

How is working at a restaurant different from a bakery?

They are both beasts! But in totally different ways. In restaurants, everything is more detailed and intricate. A dish might have 10 or 12 components. It’s very composed, and people are treating themselves to a luxury. At the bakery, it’s all about volume and satisfying the daily need of the community. You’ll have the same group of people who come by everyday for a scone and a coffee on their way to work, and you better be ready for that!

Being an avid follower of your Instagram feed one can find amazing snaps of mouth watering pastries to impressive maps routing your latest run. How did you get into running? What’s been the most challenging marathon so far?

I got into running in 2014 when I did my first half marathon. I just needed to get outside one day, got bit by the running bug, and the rest is history. I find running to be the best way to reduce stress, gather my thoughts and stay healthy. I am the first person to admit that I have a huge sweet tooth, and I will absolutely acknowledge that sugar is not good for us. Health is important to me, and I wouldn’t be able to do what I love without finding some balance in my life.

Has there been a notable chef, travel, space or experience that has inspired you throughout your journey?

I do want to shout out Sohui Kim again here. She’s really had a huge impact on my journey and has helped me every step of the way. She’s someone I look up to so much as a creative chef, a woman in a male dominated industry, a business owner and a positive force. I admire the grace with which she’s achieved her success and I strive to do the same!

Best piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting their journey in the culinary industry?

Just get your foot into a bakery or kitchen! Ask if you can trail and see if it’s what you truly love. This is not an easy industry, but the rewards are countless if it’s your passion. Start early, put your head down and learn as much as you can from the more senior cooks and chefs.

Finally, what is next for you?

I want to continue to be a part of helping our group of business grow, and have a positive impact on our community. I just want to keep doing what I love. Not everyone can say they get to do that for a living, and I’m very lucky. I think for me the next short-term steps are really buckling down on the bushiness side of things and educating myself. I think that will only make me a better Chef and manager.

Scoops & Sweets | Greene Grape Provisions | Greene Grape Annex

The Greene Grape is four unique businesses with one shared mission – to provide goods and services made with integrity, skill and pride. The Brooklyn based locations consist of Greene Grape Provisions, an artisan grocery store, butcher, and cheese counter; Greene Grape Wine & Spirits, a speciality wine and spirits store; Greene Grape Annex, a bar/cafe; and Scoops & Sweets, a bakery and ice cream shop. The four locations provide high quality and natural food and beverages to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene community. To find more about the Greene Grape visit