Chef Chat

Chef Chat: Rebecca Masson on Snowboarding and Louis Vuitton

The Houston skyline at Fluff Bake Bar.
The Houston skyline at Fluff Bake Bar. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Couch Potato, Star Crossed Lover, Unicorn Bait… where is this land and how may I travel there? It's easy to see at 314 Gray, that chef Rebecca Masson has fun in her work. Fluff Bake Bar, open late for those looking, is the long-awaited brick and mortar from the pastry chef that first turned heads in 2010 by winning, that's right, a mushroom challenge.

If you can imagine restaurant staff as elves in Santa's workshop, pastry chefs are the ones running around hopped up on hot chocolate and candy canes. And we love them for it. Masson, definitely one of the fun ones, is the kind you ask after clean up where are we going tonight, betch?

Her voice, real and refreshing, begins or ends many stories with, "so, I brought them treats and…" Pastry chefs, who often leave out nibbles from their cuttings, are typically the giving kind.

Originally from Wyoming, Masson began baking in college and in lieu of a career in accounting, she just kept at it. A few years later, she applied to the tippy-top of pastry schools and was accepted at Le Cordon Bleu. Afterward she interned and worked at Michelin starred Paris staple, Le Bristol. Upon returning stateside she stacked up a solid resume bouncing around New York, notably working at DB Bistro and Daniel which sprouted leadership roles at The Biltmore Room, The Red Cat and BLT Prime.

Ryan Pera is credited for luring Masson down to Houston to work at *17. Since then, she's hustled alongside many in this town; Chris Shepherd, Charles Clark, Claire Smith and is now widely considered a stalwart of the sweet world, picking up awards from several publications along the way. Her appearance on Season 2 of Top Chef: Just Desserts made us all love her just a little bit more...

In May of 2016 she opened Fluff Bake Bar in Midtown and since then continues to brighten the taste buds of the many who visit her. Saturday Morning Bake Sales, fun collaborations she enjoys with other chefs about town, are worth checking out. While other cities have tried and tried to flirt her away, Houston continues to hold on tight.

Masson is very active in events and charities, in fact her future lineup looks a little like a concert schedule.  Just last weekend she cooked for Indie Chefs Week and did a dinner in South Carolina with chef Sarah Simmons. Coming up: May 15 at Taco Takeover in San Diego, May 19 at Taco Showdown in San Antonio, May 20 at Cochon 555 in Austin, and May 22 she helps co-chair Houston's Taste of the Nation, which benefits nonprofit No Kid Hungry.

The Houston Press sat down to chat with chef Rebecca Masson early in the morn at Fluff Bake Bar…

HP: I thought I'd ask you just fun questions today...

RM: Oh good.

HP: Were you always cool or did you ski at one point in time?

RM: (Laughs) Wait, what?

HP: Were you always cool or did you ski at one point in time?
click to enlarge Boss lady. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Boss lady.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

RM: I actually learned to ski when I was four. I was born in Laramie, Wyoming. My dad was ski patrol at Snowy Range, which is right outside of Laramie. I remember having head-to-toe blue bibs, a jacket that was blue and white with apples and my skis matched.

HP: Damn.

RM: Yeah, my mom made sure I looked good. For me, learning how to ski is easy, learning how to get better is really hard. Learning how to snowboard is really hard, but once the lightbulb goes on, you're good. When I moved to Breckenridge I understood that feeling of, "it's a powder day, no friends, see ya later!" I don't really snowboard anymore, I tore my MCL and had to have surgery.

HP: Oh no.

RM: I actually gave my snowboard and all my equipment to Ninja [ her sous chef for five years who moved to Denver last fall].  We wear the same size shoes. We finish each other's sandwiches, right? I told her to just sign up for a lesson.

HP: Just do it. Commit to three days of falling and you're good.

RM: Yeah, you're good.

HP: Which guys in Breckenridge are typically hotter, ski lift attendants, rental boys, or ski patrol?

RM: Oh…patrol.

HP: Patrol.

RM: Yeah, patrol is always hotter. Well it might be that you've crashed yourself silly, you're seeing stars and they are tucking you in to that little thing. My first year at Breckenridge I was a lift operator. I knew how to run every lift on peak 8, switch from auxiliary to diesel in case of power failure, using emergency breaks…you had several hundred people's lives in your hands at one time. The ski patrol guys at Breck called me princess.

HP: Lucky.

RM: I even had a nametag. I had my fair share of riding in sleds. I'm actually afraid of heights.

HP: You are?

RM: Riding a ski lift is really funny.

HP: It's scary.

RM: It is. It is frightening. And then you watch these videos of what can happen when all brakes fail, which never [actually] happens.

HP: No.

RM: The worst patrol experience happened at Keystone, we were on the farthest mountain you could go. I snowboarded with these three guys all five years that I lived there. We were a little pack. So, I dropped off a cornice for the first time, you know, at the top of the mountain where it's above tree line and the wind makes a little lip? That's a cornice. I was like, "whoooooo, this is funnnn," and ran right into a tree. I stuck out my arm and shattered everything in here. (Points to left wrist.)

HP: No.

RM: So here I am, stuck in the trees. I finally get out and they were like, "what the fuck, what's wrong with you!" They called patrol over, packed me in the toboggan and I think, okay, this is going to be a really long sled ride, we're going to go up the mountain and back down.


Fuckers, hung me from the lift.

HP: (Laughs so hard) Shut up!! And going from the third mountain to the second is really high.

RM: Yeah. It was. I thought, "I'm going to die, I'm going to die." My friend Jamie said I was pale white and hyperventilating. It's funny because these boys were always like, "no friends! Powder day!" But then we get to the clinic and they're all there and I look at the them like, "what the fuck are ya'll doing here? That snow is epic!" They played so tough, but I was like, "go."

HP: That's really cute.

RM: It is pretty cute.

HP: You're drinking rosé on the patio, but where in the world is the patio?

RM: Paris.

HP: Duh.

RM: Duh. Probably somewhere in the Marais? That's my favorite area. Or the Bastille. I really like that one too.

HP: There is a great farmers market by the Bastille.

RM: Yeah, I lived at the Bastille. So, every Wednesday and Sunday I would go to Richard Lenoir and get my meals for the week. Every Sunday it was half a rotisserie chicken, potatoes and a baguette and that's what I ate until Wednesday. I was so poor in Paris. I try to go back every year. It's fun because, the guys I worked with at my internship, the chef has his own pastry shop at Montmartre, the teacher has two, the sous chef from The Bristol has one, one of the commis is the chef at Georges V, two teach down in Marseille...

HP: Wow, nice connections.

RM: Yeah, I like to get to see them. I see what they're doing and they see what I'm doing. They're like, "you did it!" I have two things I do when I go to Paris. I go visit pastry chefs; see who's new, what they're doing…and make a trip to Louis Vuitton.

HP: Hells yeah.

RM: Yeah, I have a guy now at Louis Vuitton, he sent me a Christmas card this year.

HP: No way, was it beautiful?

RM: It was, it was actually an entremets cake in a Louis Vuitton trunk. He was like, "it's your two passions." His name is Sebastian and I bring him treats.

HP: Totally.

RM: My mom always wants something [from there.] Last year I went to Chanel for her. It was the mothership. I went straight to the source.

HP: What did you buy her?

RM: I showed them the picture of the bag she wanted and they were like, "no, no that was last year."

HP: "Guess I'll go to Marshall's."

RM: They pull out another one. It wasn't leather, it was fabric and designed by Karl Lagerfeld. It screamed Karl Lagerfeld. I sent pictures to my mom in Houston, and the salesperson said, "tell your mother she can only get this bag at this store." My mom goes, "done."

HP: You're the best.

RM: (Laughs) My mom sounds so pretentious, she's really not.

HP: She likes nice things.

RM: She lives half a mile from me. Or I should say I live half a mile from her, she moved here first.

HP: When you want to get down and really dance like a freak, what's your jam?

RM: Probably anything old school hip-hop or like (thinks)…

HP: Like My Pony?

RM: (Laughs) You know what's really funny is I lip sync to that all the time. It's my goal in life to be on Lip Sync Battle.

HP: I'm sure you could swing that?

RM: I don't know how? I'm not famous.

HP: Yeah, you are.

RM: In Houston.

HP: Nah, girl.

RM: I would kill to be on that.

HP: What song would you do?

RM: Well, I know my second song would be 9 to 5. Dolly Parton.

HP: Classic.

RM: But I haven't figured out my first song. It would be really cool if I could practice real hard and do a down and dirty rap song. But, yeah if I know the words to something, I'll just get right up next to one of my girls and start lip syncing and make them really uncomfortable.

HP: And they're new so it's like…

RM: It's not that I don't trust anyone's palate in my kitchen right now, but, I don't trust anyones palate in my kitchen, because it's not Ninja.

HP: Where's Ninja?

RM: She moved to Denver.

HP: What does she call you?

RM: (Smiles) Boss lady. I want my team to be completely honest with me. I'm like, "but what does it need?" Like if something sucks or is a bad idea, I want them to feel comfortable saying, "yeah, I don't think so." I texted Ninja and said, "I miss you, I miss your taste buds." And immediately she said, "more acid, more salt." She was right, I needed more salt in the cookie butter whipped cream.

HP: From afar.

RM: I want my team to get to that point, and when we do and they say it's really good, I'll trust them.

HP: They will.

RM: They will, yeah.

HP: I love it when pastry uses salt.

RM: (Laughs) I use so much salt it's not even funny. Everyone is why is this so good? And I'm like: salt. My whole thing is, sugar is just a part of it, it's not what I do. Sugar is not the recipe, it doesn't make a cookie, I mean yes it does, but if you eat the cookie with passion fruit and milk chocolate you're going to taste that passion fruit, you're going to taste that 46 percent milk chocolate. The cookie is just the vehicle to get it to you.

HP: Speaking of unicorns, would you choose that or a baby dragon that would always look to you as it's mom?

RM: Yeah, but when the dragon gets big he's going to be huge.

HP: But he can destroy things for you…

RM: That's true. Can I have Fluffzilla?

HP: What's that?

RM: It's a mix of Godzilla with a unicorn.

HP: That's the best of both worlds, yeah, you can have that.

RM: Donkeeboy did that. (Points to mural above) He's eating the Houston skyline of cake.

click to enlarge Gnar, Gnar, Gnar. - PHOTO BY KATE MCLEAN
Gnar, Gnar, Gnar.
Photo by Kate McLean

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