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The Ritz-Carlton, Boston pastry chef Christopher Goluszka knows where to buy the best butter for your holiday pies – The Boston Globe

Christopher Goluszka, 34 (“but everyone tells me I have a baby face”), moved to Boston in 2019 from Chicago, where he was a high-end hotel pastry chef. In Boston, he worked at the Encore and as head baker at the South End Buttery before joining the Ritz-Carlton, Boston in time for the holidays, although his lower-brow guilty pleasures include hash browns and ice cream.
Do you have an early memory that made you think: Pastry is what I want to do with my life?
Way back, my grandma would always make a lemon poppy seed cake and a vanilla pound cake for Easter. My dad’s side of the family is Polish, so the big thing was the blessing of the basket. The week before Easter, you would make all these things, put them in a basket, and then you’d go to service and get it blessed. Then you’d save it for the week and eat it on Easter. I would always help out making those cakes. That was one of my earliest memories of actually getting to bake with someone.
Are you formally trained?
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When I was in high school, I was more focused on the arty stuff rather than the core studies. I found out very early on that schooling wasn’t really my forte. From there, I went to the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, which unfortunately is no longer around, sadly, like a lot of those smaller culinary schools.
My first job was at Wheaton College, where I made $8.75 an hour. We made all the pastries for the school; it was breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Anywhere between 5,000 and 5,700 people would go through. So it was just high volume. I worked with a great team of Eastern European ladies.
Let’s talk a little bit about Chicago versus Boston. Did it feel like a big leap, from the Midwest to the East Coast?
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It was definitely a big, big jump. But one of the main things here is: People are very direct. I miss Midwestern kindness almost every day. But in terms of food, everyone is more likely to get the homier-style stuff versus back home, where it’s a little bit trendy or it’s a little bit progressive. Whoopie pies are still a big thing when you go to Bova’s or Mike’s. You see the homier Italian-style stuff here.
How would you describe the food scene in Chicago versus the food scene here?
Here in Boston, things are starting to become a little bit trendier. But I feel like here you have a lot of the old spots. Like in the North End, it’s a lot of the same stuff. It’s hard to break away from the mold of tiramisu and cannolis and stuff like that. But, if you know what you do well, by all means, keep doing it. But back home, I feel like there’s a little bit more room for just trying out different things because it’s a bigger city.
Do you have any favorite Boston haunts? What do you find yourself eating?
Currently, I’m in Somerville, and I’ve been here for the last three years since I moved. I typically like to stay at the neighborhood spots. I tend to skew more toward the breakfast stuff. I’m a big breakfast person. The thing I like doing most on my days off is just grabbing a cup of coffee and a pastry. Some of my favorite places are Highland Kitchen near Davis. They do a little bit more elevated, homey food, and it’s always good every time I go. For breakfast-type stuff, Vinal Bakery is one of my favorites, with English muffins. It’s a nice way to start the day, just outside of Union Square.
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What’s the holiday season like at the Ritz? Take us behind the scenes.
I’m trying to step out of my comfort zone a little bit with it. I’m trying to go big for my first holiday at the Ritz. I’m trying to make a big chocolate showpiece and gingerbread houses for a nice display.
I work with three very talented individuals. We create a big display throughout the lobby and just kind of really amp up the holiday spirit as soon as you walk into the hotel.
Do you wake up early in the morning? Go home late at night? I want all the details.
It’s a very small operation that we have. … I try to still get there kind of early, around 7:30. So I’m finally past the days of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. for a shift, which is great. I work maybe 9 to 10 hours. The one thing I’ve learned after working a long time is, when you hit a wall almost every day, it’s just not worth it to keep going anymore. It’s better to get a fresh start tomorrow and just hit the ground running from there.
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Who’s staying at the hotel in this weird, quasi-post-COVID world?
At the Ritz, it’s a different and unique clientele because we get a lot of high-ranking Marriott members. They already have very high expectations because they stay at so many different ones. Now we’re starting to get more of the families back, which is always fun to see. They’re more impressed as soon as they walk in the door. And then, in terms of pastry, it’s always nice, because I’m the last amenity for a meal. We’re the last impression. I try to give that little extra wow at the end.
What do you feel like is the future role of places like the Ritz now, since March 2020?
I feel like it’s starting to get back. I don’t think anything will ever be truly back to pre-COVID, unfortunately, just because the way everything is working. It’s starting to get there in terms of volume and people accepting traveling again.
I feel like the need for pastry is starting to come back again. When they first opened up the hotels, it was very bare bones. Now it’s gotten to the point where it’s like, let’s try to separate ourselves from a few other places and have a little bit more to offer and have in-house pastry stuff.
Do you make pastry at home? Or can you not stand to look at it during your free time?
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Everyone always asks my wife whenever they meet her and find out what I do: They say, “You must eat so well!” She’ll be the first one to tell you that [food] is the last thing I usually do when I’m at home. And if she really, really needs something, it’s like pulling teeth to get me to do it. I’ll usually go out and pick up stuff during the week from Café Beatrice. Unfortunately for my bank account, there is a Union Square Donuts at Assembly, where I live. So every few days when I’m walking the dog in the morning, I think, “You know what sounds good before work? A doughnut.”
What type of dog?
I have a 6½-year-old Lab mix. We got her from a rescue society back in Chicago.
What’s your favorite restaurant of all time back in Chicago? Anywhere you really miss?
That is a great question. There are two. For dinner, there was the Smyth and Loyalist, which was actually a really cool concept. Downstairs was an upscale bar, where they had the best burger in Chicago. And then upstairs, I think it was Michelin starred. I don’t remember if it was one or two. And I used to work with someone at the Ritz in Chicago who was the chef de partie at the Smyth and a great guy. I’ve had a lot of hospitality when I went.
The one thing I truly miss the most is breakfast food back home. There was this place in my hometown [in Elmhurst, Illinois] called Stray Hen, where you can get a Southwestern skillet, which is shredded hash browns, peppers, onions, chorizo, two eggs over easy, and then pancakes on the side with a cup of coffee. It was only 13 bucks, and it’d be the best breakfast ever.
Guilty food pleasure?
For me, it’s always been ice cream, ever since I was younger. It doesn’t matter what kind. And then, fortunately here in Boston, there’s a lot of good micro creameries, which have some fantastic ice cream as well.
Any favorites?
It’s usually tied between New City in Cambridge, which is easy for me to get to, or Honeycomb, closer to Davis Square. That’s really good as well.
Last question for all the nervous home bakers making pies for Thanksgiving: What’s your number-one tip?
In terms of baking pies at home, first: Just bake what you like, in terms of ingredients. You don’t want to try to do something nice on Instagram just because it seems different. You probably won’t like it. Don’t try anything that’s outside your comfort zone in terms of ingredients.
And, if you can, higher-quality butter will make all the difference in the taste. I go to Elmendorf, a baking supplies store [in Cambridge], for Plugra. I feel like that makes a lot of difference in terms of cookies or pie crust.
Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.
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