You might not have heard of her, but Lindsey Auten is a rising star pastry chef.
Even if you haven’t heard of her, you likely have consumed one of her decadent desserts at Crop Bistro (2537 Lorain Ave., 216-696-2767, cropbistro.com) in Ohio City, where she's been for two years. But the road to Crop wasn’t as well defined as a cake recipe.
The 25-year-old Middleburg Heights native was unsure of her future after graduating from Olmsted Falls High School. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to spend the next four to six years — and thousands of dollars — trying to figure it out,” she says. Upon graduation she jumped into the massage world, attaining her massage therapy license. But that wasn’t the answer. After some soul searching, Auten decided to focus on her passion for cooking, which led her to Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. After graduating with honors in 2010, Auten turned her externship at the popular A Cookie and a Cupcake in Tremont into a full-time pastry assistant position.
Mentored by co-owners Wendy Thompson and SynDee Bergen, Auten quickly realized that you don’t learn everything in culinary school. “They don’t tell you about how you won’t have nights and weekends to hang out with your friends," she says. "And if you thought you were too sick to work, you were wrong, and you were going to work a 12-hour shift to prove it.”
After two years at the Tremont bakery, the winds began to shift. “Wendy and SynDee taught me so many things, not just about baking and decorating, but about speed, confidence and attention to detail," she notes. "They even guided me in my personal life and they became close friends. I felt I was ready for a different challenge.”
Opportunity came knocking when Crop's pastry chef Lauren Stephenson asked Auten to join the team at the newly relocated Ohio City restaurant as their pastry assistant. So, in November of 2011, she resigned from A Cookie and a Cupcake and started work at Crop.
“I saw it as a great opportunity to work with Chef Schimoler," she explains. "I took a leap of faith on him and his company and he took one with me. Steve recognized my talents and supported my desire to work for him fulltime.”
Buzzing around the bustling, open-air Crop Bistro, Auten quickly adopted the nickname “Blondie," owing to her glowing locks. When Stephenson left Crop to focus on motherhood, Auten was promoted to head pastry chef. Since landing the gig, Auten has worked feverishly to craft a pastry menu that reflects her skills.
“I remember the first complete dessert idea that I brought to chef Steve and kitchen manager Pete Joyce," she recalls. "We started bouncing around ideas and feeding off of each other. The end product that went on the menu was so much better than my original idea. This sparked my passion more than any other moment in my career."
While Crop's dessert menu is ever-shifting, Auten does have a few personal favorites. “Right now it's Fire and Ice — a coconut lychee panna cotta with a pink peppercorn habanero gastrique, finished with sour kiwi/passion fruit pâté de fruit. The dish is about stimulating the senses more than anything. It has heat with the habanero, the cool panna cotta, and it’s refreshing without being boring." Another star on the dessert menu is the Baked Alaska, a rich chocolate cake topped with Mitchell’s coffee ice cream and finished with toasted Italian meringue and dark chocolate sauce.
As for where she'll ultimately end up, Auten neither knows nor particularly cares. “Not sure what's in the future just yet. I'm very happy with my Crop family and have been given opportunities to develop other skills outside of pastry. Maybe I'll end up a general manager someday or in a quiet bakery."