Dame du Jour: Britt-Marie Culey

By Maria Isabella
Interview by
Paula Hershman

What does a newly minted pre-med graduate who’s just starting out in her career as a medical professional do when her passion suddenly runs dry? In Britt’s case, she turns to her other unfulfilled passion instead: baking. So she ran with it—and has never looked back since.

Growing up in Connecticut, Britt admits food was a big part of her life. “My Swedish mother always prepared home-cooked meals,” she says. “Nothing was out of a box. She created everything from scratch. Chocolate roll cakes. Butter cream frostings. Even meringues.”

She loved helping her mom. So when Britt needed a part-time job during high school, she chose to work at a bakery. All through college, she worked in a bagel shop. And all through culinary school, she worked in a coffee shop where she created all their pastries. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

When Britt realized medicine was not for her, she decided to enroll in the Western Culinary Institute (now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts) in Portland, Oregon. After obtaining her associate’s degree in culinary arts, she left for the South of France to work at Le Petit Prince, a traditional French pastry shop.

“My only days off were Sundays,” explains Britt. “There was always a big farmers’ market in the center of town with an enormous paella, in the largest paella pan I have ever seen. I loved it so much it would feed me for three days!”

After returning to the States, she landed a job at Financier, another French pastry shop, this time in Manhattan. Serendipity eventually brought her and her husband, Shane, to Cleveland where she opened up her own French bakery, Coquette P√Ęttisserie.

Has it been worth it? In Britt’s own words, she says, “I’m so proud I actually took the step to change careers. Now I get to do what I love. I work, shop, and bake all day. I come home and feed my children. Then I sit down with a glass of wine. I even dream about food! It’s my life.”

When not working or eating at her favorite restaurant (she loves #3 at Superior Pho), she enjoys entertaining at home.

“We like to entertain casually with close friends, great food, drinks, and a themed spread with small pickings,” says Britt. “Preferably in our backyard with the fire pit and bar set up.”

As for what she likes best about being a member of LDEI, Britt says, “I enjoy being with all the ladies. I really look forward to our meetings and getting to know other interesting women in the industry.”

Learn more about Britt as she shares some fun and interesting insights about herself.

Which one chef (living or deceased) would you want to invite over for dinner and what would you serve? Julia Child. I would get her drunk on wine and serve her Beef Bourguignon.

What is your favorite cookbook? Larousse Gastronomique.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Chicken noodle soup. It’s hearty and full of flavor, starting with a full free-range chicken.

Any favorite indulgences? Alcohol, wine, beer, and Champagne. I sell all of these at my p√Ętisserie. But my all-time favorite to the core is Champagne!

Do you have a signature dish? Risotto.

What’s your go-to, quick-and-easy dinner? Stir-fry whatever I have in the fridge, with rice or pasta.

What’s your favorite dessert to prepare? Mousses. A compilation of crunchy, chewy, any-flavor profile.

What’s the biggest cooking mistake you’ve ever made? Let’s just say I’m not allowed to deep fry anything. My husband is in charge of that. He’s from Louisiana.

Name 3 kitchen gadgets you can’t live without. Blowtorch, bench scraper, and rubber spatula.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? Caviar in a tube. It’s an alternative to salt. You can put it on everything!