Sandy McPherson grew up in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. While in college Sandy decided to follow her true passion and enroll in culinary school. Her parents were extremely supportive. Sandy’s dad actually researched cooking schools and eventually found Ballymaloe, a 12-week culinary program based in Ireland. Ballymaloe was founded by the equivalent of the Irish Julia Childs, Darina Allen and her brother Rory O’Connell, in 1983. After cooking school and several stints in San Francisco, Sandy returned to the East Coast and opened Washashore Bakery last summer in Mashpee, Massachusetts. Washashore is a bakery where you will find everyday cookies with a special twist in addition to many other creative and delicious treats. Sandy filled Sweet Travels in on how she arrived in the culinary world.
What type of cooking did you focus on as a student at Ballymaloe Cookery School? Are they known for a particular type or style of cooking?
Ballymaloe focused on all aspects of cooking, from breaking down fish, chicken, and meat, to making soups, salads, sides, and desserts. Every day we were in the kitchen making meals for lunch. We had a technique checklist that we followed with things like, making scones, rolling out pie crust, deboning a chicken, etc. We definitely learned about and cooked many traditional Irish dishes but we also focused on international cuisine. I remember making lots of Indian, Asian and French food throughout my studies.
What was your favorite dish to make or eat while studying in Ireland?
One dish that I remember clearly was a Curried Madras Indian dish made with lamb.
Your next formal training was at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone in Napa Valley, California for the Baking and Pastry Program. How long was this program?
The CIA program was a 9-month certificate program. Unfortunately, they don’t have accelerated classes anymore. I believe if you go now it’s an 18-month associate’s degree.
You mentioned you worked in San Francisco at a chocolate company teaching. How long were you in SF?
I was in San Francisco for just under 2 years. I worked for a small chocolate company that made truffles and chocolate bars. They held classes to learn about chocolate and the process involved with making chocolate bars. I also worked at Greens Restaurant in Fort Mason as a pastry cook. The restaurant is vegan and vegetarian so it was fascinating to learn how to make vegan desserts.
What is your most memorable dessert while traveling?
Two years ago my sister and I went to Germany for a week and we enjoyed so many incredibly tasty pastries. There was not one specific dessert that I remember, but I loved going to the local bakery every day and picking up some treats for our daily adventures.
Describe the most challenging customer order and why?
One order I remember clearly was when I was asked to recreate a detailed logo for a client. It was extremely challenging mainly because we use buttercream in our decorations. Every order that has a specific design is always a little challenging because you never know if what you create is what the customer has in their mind too. Another challenging order we had was a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for a wedding…during August! It was a very hot day and we had to travel one hour to deliver the cake. That was stressful as we had to make sure the cake was stacked securely to withstand the trip and the heat.
If you could work with one Pastry Chef for a night who would it be and why?
One of the first baking books I ever received was by Sherry Yard, a three-time James Beard award-winning chef. I would like to bake with her one day.
Who influenced you the most in your career?
I have always had a firm idea of what I wanted to do and through my travels and different jobs I picked up ideas here and there. I love what I do.
What advice do you have for someone looking to open their own bakery?
You definitely need to have perseverance in this business and the ability to stick to what you believe in. Everyone comes into a bakery wondering why you don’t have exactly what they want. It can get frustrating sometimes when it’s not part of your vision. You can’t be everything to everyone. Do not stray too far out of the way to start making something for everyone if it doesn’t fall in line with what you want to do.
On a personal note from Moira McCullough…the chocolate raspberry roulade is like no other. Seriously, if I lived closer, I would be in trouble! Another favorite with the locals is the cinnamon bun.