Chelsea Ecdao is no stranger to decadent desserts. Her signature dish, a Manjari layer cake made with Madagascan chocolate, salted caramel mousse and Manjari crème, is a showstopper from its dark chocolate mirror glaze to its artful scatter of malted cookie crumbs. But as much she loves an elaborate final course, she wants her ingredients to remain simple. That’s why she appreciates Harvest Organics Potting Mix, a product made without harmful chemicals or additives. We sat down with the QC Catering pastry chef to find out what inspires her, what really matters in a well-balanced dish, and how pulling herbs and fruits from her own garden has transformed her approach to food.
Harvest Organics: What inspires your creations?
Chelsea Ecdao: I’m immersed in inspiration. It could be as simple as walking through the market, and a new fruit or vegetable catches my eye, or I want to create something special for a loved one … these are the catalysts that drive me to develop new and exciting desserts.
So, how do you take what you find at the market and turn it into a new flavor profile?
I challenge myself to think outside the box as much as my mind and palette will allow. I’m continuously developing in this aspect, but my desire to continue to learn and try new things motivates me.
How do you assess the quality of what you find? Are organic fruits and vegetables important to your cooking process?
A farm-to-table mindset and organic gardening are significant to me in my line of work. It’s crucial to know where my food comes from and that I’m not (or someone I’m cooking for isn’t) ingesting harmful chemicals or pesticides. Therefore, I choose to work with local farmers who grow organically whenever possible, and I have my garden, so I know what is going into my produce from the moment it's planted.
What’s the best part of having your own garden? Has that changed your cooking at all?
There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing fruits and vegetables grow in your backyard and knowing that you had a hand in the process. That in itself inspires me whenever I look out my back window. You know, the process is long — there a lot of variables that go into gardening, from choosing the right garden components and seedlings to dealing with unpredictable weather — but it’s so worth it. Once you’ve tasted homegrown produce, there’s just nothing like it.
You mentioned choosing the right garden components. What made Harvest Organics right for your backyard garden?
Well, first and foremost, the reason is in the name. It’s completely organic. I know what’s in the bag, and I appreciate that the company turns organic waste into a sustainable product. The second reason is that I have dogs, and the brand is pet-friendly. I don’t have to worry about my dogs getting into the dirt and ingesting something that could potentially hurt them. My pets are important to me, and it is one of the first things I consider when deciding what soil to use.
What have your results been like?
Let’s see … this year I planted zucchini, edamame, cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, sweet peppers, heirloom tomatoes, strawberries and a bunch of herbs. My garden continues to grow, but I’m already seeing a difference and a direct result from using Harvest Organics’ line of products. I’m thrilled with where the garden is so far — my zucchini are growing like crazy.
Would you recommend Harvest Organics to peers in your industry?
Absolutely. They stand by their product and believe in fresh and organic produce. Best of all, the plants LOVE their soil. My garden is everchanging, and I’m continuously surprised by how much it’s flourished.
Want a taste of Ecdao’s sensational desserts? Check out her take on basil panna cotta and a lemon crumble in part 3 of this series.
Hungry for more? Check out part 1 of our Chef's garden series as we dish on our experience with urban gardener and executive chef, Oscar La Fuente.