The Apple Farm’s executive pastry chef Willette “Willie” Vey is a county native born in San Luis Obispo, and a graduate of Morro Bay High School, where she took every home economics class available and became the teacher’s assistant.
Her love for baking began at a young age from watching her mother bake up a tasty storm for every family event. Vey started working in local restaurants at age 15, always gravitating towards the pastry side of the menu.
Her four-plus decades of experience have included stints working in hotels and small eateries, operating her own wholesale bakery, and cooking for such luminaries as Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Glenn Close, and Jack and Elaine LaLanne, just to name a few.
Vey has been with the Apple Farm for nearly 14 years, but that’s not why she chose the apple as her favorite ingredient!
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What is your favorite local and/or seasonal ingredient that you’re currently using in your menu, and why is it your favorite?
The apple. I use it in so many recipes here at the Apple Farm. I’ve been baking with apples since I was very young because my mom also baked, and we had a few of our own apple trees where I grew up just outside of Morro Bay. It’s also my favorite because it reminds me so much of my younger days with my parents. They were such great role models and hard workers.
How are you currently using apples?
We are currently using it in my carrot apple cake (my grandma’s recipe that I changed just a little, adding the apple and cinnamon), apple dumplings, apple crumble pie, apple pie, apple cookies and whatever I can think of putting apples in!
How does this particular dish represent your culinary style, background and/or philosophy?
My culinary style of baking is the homemade style because of growing up in the country with so many things to use in baking. My philosophy is: Don’t waste anything if you can come up with an idea to use it in some manner of baking.
How would home cooks approach apples in their own kitchens?
Like me, the home cooks can get their favorite local apples (such as Pink Lady and Fuji from Cuyama), and make applesauce, pies, cookies, cakes, dumplings — apples are so easy to work with and have endless uses.
If you have a large batch of apples you can’t use right away, you can freeze them. Peel, core and slice them, and — as you’re doing that — drop them into water with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning. Then drain them and spread them out on a parchment lined sheet pan and put them into the freezer for a couple of hours to flash freeze them. Then put them in an airtight container or Ziploc bags. When you need them, you can pull out just the right amount.
What is your favorite dish to cook at home and why?
I have to say that I am a chocoholic. My granddaughter and I put chocolate on everything, and lately she and I have been making homemade s’mores. We make the graham crackers and marshmallows, and we make chocolate ganache as our chocolate. I love it because I get to spend time with my granddaughter, Ireland, and teach her how to bake.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing and why?
My favorite food is chocolate, and I think it pairs well with different red wines and ports. I’ve paired chocolate with so many different wines over the years and at our winemaker dinners, I can’t tell you which one I liked best; but a favorite is definitely my chocolate stout cake with the Firestone Velvet Merlin (an oatmeal stout).
For the Apple Farm’s Valentine’s Day Dessert and Winemaker Dinner, I’ll be making a delicious chocolate banana tart with maca (Peruvian ginseng) and rum-infused caramelized bananas topped with a layer of chocolate ganache, a dollop of whipped cream and two chocolate hearts; it will be paired with a Sculpterra Primitivo port. The chocolate, bananas, maca and whipped cream are known as aphrodisiacs believed to spark romance!
2015 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo | 544-2040 | applefarm.com
Hours: Daily, breakfast 7 a.m.-1 p.m., lunch 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m., dinner 5-9 p.m.
The scene: Comfy country décor with both an indoor dining area and a sunny patio.
The cuisine: From-scratch fare featuring classic comfort food and modern touches, including the bakery items.
Expect to spend: Breakfast and lunch about $10-$15, dinner about $10-$28.