Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, the restaurant and hotel, opened to great fanfare just over a year ago. As the East End’s newest wedding venue, Topping Rose accommodates wedding ceremonies and receptions year-round, with meals sweetly completed by pastry chef Cassandra Shupp. Shupp came to the culinary arts through the arts, earning her bachelor’s degree in visual arts from North Carolina State University. After graduation she realized her love for baking was stronger than her desire to be an artist, though the two fields have much in common.
“Art is about color, balance, texture, all the things I was learning in my mother’s kitchen growing up in Pennsylvania,” she says. “The food has to look good, so putting a dish and a whole meal together uses a lot of the same ideas. I worked as a waitress for a bit but I was always envious of the chefs and the freedom they had creating the meal back in the kitchen.”
She moved to New York City in 2009 from North Carolina to pursue her passion for baking and enrolled in the career pastry program at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her career got on the fast track as she honed her baking and pastry skills in renowned restaurant kitchens throughout New York including chef Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne. She then became a full-time pastry chef at Bar Boulud.
A year later Shupp moved on to Gramercy Tavern where she worked with pastry chef Nancy Olson. Shupp was connected with chef Tom Colicchio’s team through a fellow pastry chef and learned about the position they were looking to fill at Topping Rose House. She was excited by the prospect of working at the new resort and restaurant with its access to fresh ingredients from the property’s farm.
This rising culinary star, at just 27, had only two weeks notice after getting the job to move from New York City to the Hamptons and to get a car and an apartment.
“It was really exciting to come out here from the city,” she says happily in the luxe second floor library of the Topping Rose House. “I came right at the end of last season so had plenty of time to get acquainted with the restaurant and the area. It was time to move on from my work at Gramercy Tavern as I felt I had learned as much as I could in the position I had there. No one has a garden for their restaurant in the city or the access to such wonderful farms as they do here, so it’s a whole new experience.”
At Colicchio’s East End restaurant, she created the seasonal dessert menu prepared with locally sourced ingredients, including fruit from the property’s one-acre garden.
“It’s really fun to design a whole new menu, it has so many elements,” Shupp says. “A great dessert menu has to have ice cream and sorbets, something chocolate, a fruit dish and perhaps a custard. I also take into consideration the whole style of the main menu and what’s seasonally available. Since it’s our first year with the garden, I wasn’t able to use much fruit at all, herbs yes, but the fruit plants have to mature before I can take from them. We source our apples and pears we use Milk Pail, who always have great products.”
We had so much in the beginning of the season but we’ve been so busy that many of the ingredients have run down. The garden is large but our blueberries are all gone, so we had to adjust the menu. It’s great to change up the desserts but sometimes customers get disappointed when a favorite item isn’t available anymore. We’re doing 350 to 400 meals a day so items were bound to sell out.”
The summer fruit bounty found its way into a lemon thyme sorbet, peach tarte, a cheesecake with berry compote, and ice creams including unusual flavors such as sweet corn and Stumptown Coffee. A peanut butter chocolate tart is finished off with grape sauce. She also bakes the restaurant’s signature potato rolls. When she’s not in the kitchen, Shupp has settled into a cozy place in Sag Harbor with her darling Shepherd dog that has one blue eye.
“Sag Harbor is great for having a dog, he loves to walk the bay parks and on the beach.
When I go home now to visit my mom is always asking me how she’s doing in the kitchen. I tell her ‘Mom your cooking is always the best,’ but it’s funny that she feels a little
Topping Rose House, One Bridgehampton – Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton, 631-537-0870, toppingrosehouse.com