q & a with wendy thompson

One of my favorite desserts in town is the peanut butter crunch bar of sorts at Dante. Normally, I opt for cheese for dessert but make an exception for this little bit of heaven. The woman behind the fabulous dessert, along with many others, is pastry chef Wendy Thompson.

1. What are the top 5 spices every kitchen should have? Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, star anise and ginger are a must to me.

2. What is your favorite and least favorite thing to bake? Least favorite thing to bake is macaroons – they are temperamental. Sometimes they come out beautiful and other times they will crack on top. My favorite thing to bake is cupcakes; they always put a smile on my face.

3. What is your favorite and least favorite thing about Cleveland? Favorite thing is the diversity. I live in the heart of Cleveland and love it! Least favorite is that I wish there were more big businesses willing to stay in the city. I really think it would help promote Cleveland’s growth and stabilize the economy.

4. Favorite restaurant? Dante of course! Plus, I really appreciate what some of these chefs are doing to help put Cleveland on the map, including Jonathan Sawyer, Rocco Whalen, Karen Small, Michael Symon and Doug Katz. All are favorites of mine.

5. What restaurant do you miss? Silver Grille in Higbee’s. My grandmother used to take us downtown during Christmas and we would eat there. You always got a cardboard stove to take home.

6. Any hidden gems Clevelanders have yet to discover? I would have to say that the Detroit Shoreway is the thing to watch. It really is being built up. There are three theaters including a Cleveland public theatre where the locals can showcase their talent plus they do a lot of educational programs with young kids as well. Capital Theatre has one section that shows independent films and documentaries and Near West has a lot of musical productions.

7. You’re having a dinner party, top 5 songs on your play list? I would have to let my fiancé pick the music. The only thing on my iPod is books on tape. I know, I’m a big dork.

8. At that same dinner party, what are you serving for dessert? I love childhood favorites and would probably serve homemade ice cream sandwiches.

9. What is the best dessert you have ever had? It’s actually one on the menu right now. It’s a brown sugar date cake served with mascarpone mousse; poach pears and black pepper walnut brittle. Everyone needs to have it. When I had my first bite, I was blown away.

10. What is the secret to baking? Patience. You cannot rush baking no matter what.

11. Most famous person you have ever baked for? Bill Clinton, who was just recently in. It was really cool – how many times can you say you shook a presidents hand?

12. Favorite ice cream? Pistachio

13. Favorite guilty pleasure? Purple Sweetarts.

14. What was your first job? My first real job was at Heinen’s in the meat department. I was the only girl that could handle the smell. I worked there through high school and college; it was a great place to work.

15. What is your favorite tool in the kitchen? It’s a heatproof spatula, but only if none of the cooks have used it because once they do, it is useless to me. The smell of garlic and onions is a killer to any dessert.

16. If you could bake for one person, real or dead, who would it be? I would have to say the Cookie Monster. Why not turn him onto brownies?

17. What is one foolproof dessert anyone could make? I love classic, retro desserts. Get a glass bowl, fill it with diced pound cake, vanilla and/or chocolate pudding, layer strawberries or raspberries, and keep layering until you get to the top. Finish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. You can do it ahead of time (even the night before) and then you don’t have to worry about it.

18. Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker? Neither. I pick Pillsbury. You have to love the fluffy guy.

19. If you weren’t a pastry chef, what would you be doing? I would have a whole bunch of jobs. I would take on something that interests me and move on after I learned that craft. For example, I really want to learn to upholster furniture.


  1. Skeezix
    Posted February 20, 2008 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    YES! Those little cardboard stoves were my favorite thing about lunch with my grandmother.

  2. poo pop
    Posted February 20, 2008 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I shook Bill Clinton’s hand in September, it was VERY skinny and cold. He had a terrible handshake. I was shocked.

  3. michelle v
    Posted February 20, 2008 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I have a lot of good memories from Silver Grille as well and think there is even one of those stoves floating around my parent’s house still. When I got married in 2006, we actually looked into having the reception at the Silver Grille, which is now operated by the Ritz. It would have been a little weird though to walk into the vacant dept store to get the elevator to the restaurant. That, and the prices to rent the apce were ridiculously high.

    I heard Clinton speak in college, but never shook his hand. However, a handshake is one of the first things I notice about someone and I truly believe it says a lot about a person.

  4. Allison M.
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I’ve only been to Dante’s once and I had that dessert. I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

  5. Heidi Robb
    Posted February 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I have such sweet memories of those Higbee’s lunches with my grandmother or mom – the little stoves and the creamed chicken that was served in the hen-covered dish. Those were the days when we dressed up to go shopping!

One Trackback

  1. By Cleveland Foodie on April 9, 2010 at 9:40 am

    […] first became familiar with Wendy Thompson when she was the pastry chef at the old Dante in Valley View. One bite of her peanut butter […]