Midwest-raised, New York City-bred and Fargo-based pastry chef Nancy Olson is helping Nichole’s Fine Pastry maintain and catapult its already stellar reputation in town.
Not just any former NYC pastry chef, Olson has worked for some of the finest restaurants in the urban agglomeration, including Aureole (run by famous chef Charlie Palmer), Django (where she got her first New York Times review) and Peacock Alley (inside the luxurious Waldorf Astoria Hotel).
Perhaps her most significant NYC gig was her seven-year stint as executive pastry chef for the Gramercy Tavern, a Michelin-starred restaurant that won Best Chef NYC at the James Beard Awards in 2012.
“I have had the good fortune of working at a lot of good places, but that place was really incredible,” Olson said. “180 people worked there. We do about 400 desserts a day. I had a pastry team of 12 people plus two sous-chefs.”
In fact, the restaurant just published a book, “The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook,” which Olson contributed to. Anyone can buy it at Barnes and Noble.
When I asked Olson, “Is Fargo ready for you?” she laughed heartily.
Like any normal human being, she wants family and personal time — something she didn’t get much of in the Big Apple. So returning to her home and helping fellow graduate of the Culinary Institute of America Chef Nichole Hensen run what may be the finest pastry shop in North Dakota seemed like a great fit.
This Thursday, April 10, all are welcome to the event “Meet the Chef, Nancy Olson” at Nichole’s Fine Pastry. The event is part of Fargo’s Downtown Sample Tour, a shopping/strolling/sampling event featuring 22 downtown businesses, each offering participants small gifts.
So what’s in store now that a new chef has joined one of Fargo’s favorite places to eat dessert, soups, sandwiches and salads?
Olson joined shop owner Hensen’s team just last year. Really, regular customers probably notice that Nichole’s Fine Pastry is just like it has always been.
“It’s just maintaining what we’ve been doing, but keeping the quality of what we’ve been doing, hoping to go higher with quality on some things,” Hensen said.
Olson is fitting in quite seamlessly with the support of Hensen and the shop’s hip and friendly staff. And, of course, with her fabulously extensive background in baking and fine dining, she’s helping bring in new ideas and recipes.
Hensen attributes some of the shop’s success to her experience visiting Olson in New York and checking out a few dozen of the city’s pastry shops.
“I think bringing some of what we saw out there, here, is a goal,” Hensen said.
Hensen also said she keeps up with culinary magazines and current food trends to continue generating quality, authentic, savory and top-of-the-line eats.
Though she too notes: “The shop has been built on, well, if you come back you are going to get the same chocolate cake, the same crème brûlée … and that’s really important.”
Olson said she’s grateful for how well she’s fitting in.
“For me, my good fortune is that Nichole’s has been in Fargo for 11 years and built up trust. People know if it’s in her pastry case, or on the shelves here, it’s going to be delicious.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Meet The New Chef, Nancy OlsonMeet The New Artist, Eric A. Johnson
WHERE: Nichole’s Fine Pastry, 13 8th St. S., Fargo
WHEN: Thurs., April 10, 5-9 p.m.HOW MUCH: Reception is FREE; Downtown Sample Tour is $20
INFO: Sample new tea, treats and gelato. $1 off wine all day.
WHAT: Nichole’s Fine PastryWHERE: 13 8th St. S., FargoWHEN: 8-6 Tues, Wed
8-10 Thurs, Fri, SatINFO: 701-232-6430; nicholesfinepastry.com
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