Charmain Ware – the pastry chef who makes the delectable desserts at Tiny Lou’s at Hotel Clermont – got bit by the cooking bug while recovering from a car accident. During her recuperation, she religiously watched Food Network shows and found herself gravitating toward desserts. Once she was up and around, she joined City of Refuge’s 180 Kitchen Culinary Program before joining the Brasserie Café at Parish and Restaurant 356 at the Porsche Experience Center, where she met Tiny Lou’s executive chef Jon Novak. We caught up with Ware to talk sweets and kitchen music vibes for our Spotify In the Mix playlist.
Q. Your interest in cooking shows while recovering from a car accident led to your career as a pastry chef. What were some of the shows you watched and what did they teach you that you use in the kitchen at Tiny Lou’s?
A. I watched a lot of Food Network shows like “Top Chef,” “Chopped,” “Barefoot Contessa,” “Ace of Cakes,” and, my favorite, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” They helped pique my interest in what would become my passion and they all taught me technique and hustle. But it was up to me and the chefs iI worked under that really showed me how to run a kitchen and create amazing desserts from the heart.
Q. Hotel Clermont and Clermont Lounge has a reputation for being fun and naughty. How do your desserts and pastries reflect that iconic status?
A. After eating at Tiny Lou’s multiple times – mostly going just to eat Chef Claudia Martinez’s desserts – I already knew what was needed from me once the job became mine. I knew I wanted to pay my respects to what Chef Claudia built, but I had to make it my own at the end of the day. I see a lot of myself in that building – we have lots of levels. I wanted to add a little of the South, but with a whole lot of spice. I love the ATL – it’s my home – and every dessert I create has a nice touch of the ATL in it.
Q. How do you come up with your ideas for new desserts and pastries? Is it trial and error or do you build on a foundation and add your own touches?
A. All my desserts come from my heart, soul, dreams, and nostalgia – from the moments and people in my life. I love recreating desserts we all loved as a kid or smells and tastes that I can’t seem to forget. Creating a dessert is my chance to express myself, and every time I create a dessert, it always feels like a little of myself was left on that plate. Pastry is what has helped heal my soul, so I always hope people get to taste that happiness.
Q. What other restaurants do you love in Atlanta and who else makes killer desserts in ATL?
A. Well, let’s be honest, I loooove me some Waffle House. Rreal Tacos chef Adrian Villarreal is amazing, and I literally cried the first time I ate a dessert from The Chastain’s pastry chef, Christian Castillo – he’s the best pastry chef in ATL. Chef Claudia [who is now at Miller Union] is amazing and a bad ass female out here killing the pastry game. And Tiny Lou’s, because Chef Jon Novak has done things with the menu that are just out of this world; I would eat anything he creates. Me and him together is like world domination.
Q. Do you listen to music when you’re baking?
A. I’m a Pandora girl. I love setting the vibe for my day by playing a few stations like Mac Miller, Anderson Paak, and Beyonce. I love me some old school music, so Anita Baker and Teddy Pendergrass radio mixed with some Hall & Oats and queens Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.