Gale Gand didn’t choose the restaurant business.
“It summoned me,” she says of her colorful path to becoming a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and restaurateur.
The Illinois native grew up playing jazz tunes all over America with her father and brother (local musician Gary Gand of the Gand Band). Then, she discovered a love for jewelry making in high school and began apprenticing under a goldsmith. As a smithing student at the Cleveland Institute of Art, she picked up a waitressing gig at a vegetarian restaurant, mostly for the free food.
It was there that Gand discovered her talent in the kitchen. “One of the line cooks didn’t show up one night for a shift,” she recalls. “My manager looked at me and said, ‘Gale, can you cook?’ and I’m like, ‘No, I can’t cook. I’m from the North Shore of Chicago. We make reservations!’ My manager [said], ‘Well, you can cook now. Get in the kitchen!’ I was terrified for six or seven seconds. Then, on second eight, I felt this weird sense of calm come over me, like I’d found my home.”
Gand’s aptitude for food and passion for people is undeniable in a career spanning more than 40 years, including a decade-long run on the Food Network. (Sweet-toothed TV audiences will recognize her as the host of dessert-centric Sweet Dreams.) With a wild onion–harvesting business that began as a way to spend time with her son to a partnership with her beekeeping neighbor that keeps her and other Chicago area chefs supplied with local honey, Gand has become a master at building relationships through food.
That will be deliciously evident at the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival, where Gand will be on hand to whip up a dish for the Sunday Brunch event, as well as teach classes on spices and tea, a seemingly innocuous subject that she finds personally fascinating. “There’s tea from one particular bush,” she explains. “That is what makes a black, white, and green tea. And then there are tisanes, which are herbs, flowers, and things like that. There’s even chocolate tea now.”
For a complete schedule of Gale Gand’s appearances, visit palmdesertfoodandwine.com.