Hot off winning a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Mindy Segal visited ICE this week to share her experience opening the Chicago gem, Hot Chocolate. Her visit was part of our Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs series, which gives ICE’s Culinary Management students the opportunity to learn from some of America’s top culinary business owners.
Segal was full of knowledge and eager to share as much as she could in her time with ICE students. You could see her passion for food within minutes of chatting with her and the students kept her rolling with question after question.
Growing up, Segal didn’t play with Barbies, instead she grew up pretending to be in a restaurant. She didn’t do well in school due to a learning disability but found comfort working in kitchens. She attended culinary school and began working in several kitchens, which included the prestigious role of pastry chef at Charlie Trotter’s. She went on to open Hot Chocolate, where she prides herself on craft food and a comfortable, relaxed dining experience. Segal joked that many people come to her restaurant for the dessert and they stay for the food.
When describing her leadership style, Segal tells her staff that they have to feel comfortable making mistakes in order to learn. One of the most important lessons she has learned when running the restaurant is when people understand your expectation, they are successful. She also recently started to bring her yoga techniques into the restaurant telling her staff to “be present” and “let’s get ourselves into hot chocolate!”
Segal shared samples of her s’more cookies as well as her signature cold hot chocolate and encouraged students to never stop learning. She is a big believer in this – so much so that she has a tattoo that says “the more you think you know, the less you know.”
And finally, when asked what her favorite dessert was, she responded, “I am a banana, caramel and chocolate kind of girl!”