Taste & Sea is easy to miss as it is tucked away in an intimate and charming location next to Solterra on Coast Highway 101 in Leucadia — but definitely worth seeking out.
I popped in recently and met owner Brittany Austin whose passion for what she does is very evident in the world-class pastries, both sweet and savory, that she and her team are producing.
Below is a conversation we had about Taste & Sea and how it came to be:
Where did you grow up and what were your early culinary influences, were you baking at a young age?
I spent the first half of my life in a small town named Danville an hour east of San Francisco. I attended Point Loma University then the San Diego Culinary Institute. In terms of culinary influences I would have to say it started with my family. My parents are amazing cooks and my grandma is a wonderful cake decorator. I was greatly inspired by her artistry in bringing fun and creativity to dessert. I actually learned a lot of my basic decorating techniques from her when I was young.
At what point did you decide that you wanted pursue being a pastry chef as a career?
While I was in culinary school I was inspired to one day open my own bakery. However, I knew that was not something that happened overnight. So from there I dove into the industry and did whatever I could to make this dream a reality. In terms of the title as pastry chef, it organically developed as I grew more in my talent and the experience in this field.
Tell me about your culinary school experience and how does the experience of going through a pastry program differ than a standard degree in culinary arts?
I thoroughly enjoyed going through the specialized courses with sole disciplines and techniques in Pastry. Baking and Patisserie is set up as an intensive 10-month program where I was French classically-trained. The classes are set up based on Chef demos and student hands-on learning. By the end of 10 months you have gone through several different courses ranging from breads, plated desserts, wedding cakes, and chocolate work.
You’ve had an impressive road that led to opening Taste & Sea Cakery that has included some of San Diego’s nicer restaurants. Tell me about that and what stops along the way influenced your style the most?
After graduating from the San Diego Culinary Institute I was blessed with the opportunity to work at The Grand Del Mar under Executive Chef Thierry Delourneaux, and later Executive Chef Melissa Logan. It was incredible working at such a renowned resort. I would have to say a majority of my precision to detail, quality, and creative flavor pairings developed while working there. After that I got the opportunity to live in Spain for four months baking and creating pastry delicacies for Art Events for EDGE project. From there I began working at Claire’s on Cedros. My experience working under the owner Claire was valuable and rewarding. It was while working there that I was reminded of the passion I had for one day owning my own bakery.
Though working at these places has been incredible and refining to my craft, I would have to say my over all influence of style has come from traveling. I have traveled internationally over many years. I love getting inspired by different countries from Spain, Italy, London, France, Australia, India and Brazil. If I were to sum it up I would say that all of the dessert that comes out of Taste & Sea has a very strong European influence.
You have a very charming retail location right next to Solterra in Leucadia. What can people expect there?
They will immediately notice the delightful atmosphere and be greeted with the warmth of my amazing team. We have a wide selection of specialty espresso drinks that can be paired with syrups that are made in house. You’ll see people sharing a dessert and those picking up their special orders. We are an all-natural bakery so everything is made with only the finest ingredients. You cannot go wrong with any of the specialty desserts in our case. If you prefer something a little simpler we offer incredible cookies as well as brownies and various bars. We also make our own gluten-free flour and our GF products get rave reviews.
A big chunk of your business is special orders and you have some impressive restaurant clients. Describe that portion of your business.
We provide a wide variety of cake flavors and decorating options from weddings to birthdays. Another portion of our business is wholesale. We provide dessert for Solterra Winery next door. We switch up the dessert menu seasonally and provide elegant desserts that pair well with Solterra’s amazing wine menu. Our other client is Nordstrom espresso bars and we delivery our jumbo cookies from Santa Monica to San Diego.
OK, tough question, but if you had to list five of your pastries that readers should definitely try, what would they be?
In no particular order I would say our top 5 pastries are the chocolate Aztec tart, Gateau Basque, red velvet cheesecake, chocolate flourless domes and peanut butter bars.
And you do have a few savory options, what are those?
Yes we have some amazing breakfast turnovers. One is ham and cheddar cheese and the other is vegetarian filled with spinach, mushroom, and Swiss Gruyere. Both of these options are wrapped with flaky puff pastry. We also offer savory quiche available for special order.
Located at 918 N. Coast Highway 101, Taste & Sea is now open Friday and Saturday evenings and offers specialty tastings by appointment for weddings and special events or just for fun. They are also launching baking and decorating classes, follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates, online at tasteandseacakery.com or call (760) 487-5444.
David Boylan is the founder of Artichoke Creative an Encinitas based integrated marketing firm. He also hosts Lick the Plate Radio that airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. on FM94/9, Easy 98.1, and KSON. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (858) 395-6905.