Danielle Marelli Executive Pastry Chef Chicago, Illinois

What inspired you to become a pastry chef?

I started baking at a young age with my mom and really enjoyed the process, technique and skills. Those memories and feelings associated with being in the kitchen with my mom and baking for our family are what ultimately led me to being a pastry chef many years later. I love that every time I create something, it’s a part of me that’s being shared. For me, pastry is one of the best ways I know how to connect with so many people-almost like my own love language. I love watching someone’s reaction to something delish I’ve made!

What’s been your experience in using deZaan in baking and desserts?

I have loved experimenting with the various deZaan cocoa powders so far! I wasn’t as familiar with the brand but now it’s the only cocoa powder I use in my desserts. Discovering the versatility and subtle flavor nuances in each cocoa has been the most exciting. I’m guilty to not have paid much attention to cocoa powders in the past and just had a “one size fits all” mentality. It’s been fun to pair certain cocoas with flavors in each of my desserts to draw out their unique flavor profiles.

Chocolate Hazelnut Budino

What’s your favorite deZaan cocoa powder and why?

I absolutely love the Carbon Black! I usually pair it with the Terra Rossa so the bitter notes of the black don’t completely take over, but I like the color it lends to my cocoa products. The Carbon Black is also a tad saltier than the other cocoa powders which I find to be unique. It takes time to learn how to work with it and I like that challenge!

The Gwen’s luxury hotel concept is inspired by the American pioneer sculptor, Gwen Lux. How do you draw inspiration as a pastry chef?

I tend to draw inspiration from the experiences and people in my life. Growing up, food was a focus in my family so I like to utilize the flavors that remind me of holidays or vacations together. Food is nostalgic and evokes many wonderful feelings, so I like to try and recreate those feelings for people around me. Creativity ebbs and flows throughout my career. At times when I find myself in a bit of a rut, I always go back to the basics. What do I like? What is my favorite dessert to eat? That’s usually a good starting point for me and doesn’t take long for inspiration to strike!