19 Hours With a Pastry Chef: Tiffany MacIssac of Neighborhood Restaurant Group

Tiffany MacIssac started the day texting her staff and drinking coffee in her Annandale backyard. It would be the last time she sat. With her husband, chef Kyle Bailey of Birch and Barley, they fought traffic into the District, then she popped into NoVA before heading again into D.C. She ended the night watching Dragon Ball Z, drunk. Here are the details, by text.

By Stefanie Gans

Tiffany MacIssac, Pastry Chef for Neighborhood Restaurant Group

7:47 A.M.  I’m currently in snooze mode (that’s about a 30 minute process). Just running through all the stops I need to make today while I muster up the energy to get up and go.

8:16 A.M.  So when I start my day at Buzz I’m lucky enough to get a great cup of coffee (or in my case chai tea with 2 shots and soy, iced… How pretentious is that).

And now for my favorite part of the day! Sitting in silence in my backyard texing my sous [chefs] to check in (Buzz has already been going for 2.5 hours) and mentally preparing. Sadly, this part only lasts 15 minutes. :(

9:07 A.M.  Should be at work in 7 minutes but just hit the dreaded TRAFFIC. Ugh. Damn you 395…

Luckily Kyle is driving so I have time to flip through US magazine.

9:32 A.M.  First stop Birch [and Barley in D.C.] Need to check in and go over the day.

9:49 A.M.  I heard back from both my Buzz sous chefs and they are looking good.

Just got to Birch. I’m running in. Kyle is going to grab us coffees from Caribou. I’m going iced, black.

10:37 A.M.  [On menu updates] We changed the size of the cupcakes and always wanting to hear feedback… It’s been mostly good but ya never know.


They are average size now, like Sprinkles. We spent July/August working on our gluten free line. People at Buzz have been loving it but since it’s new we still taste one/ask for feedback every day. It takes about three months of consistency for me to feel confident like a Buzz product is “done.”

10:47 A.M.  I personally loved the other size [cupcakes] BUT they were bigger than average and customers would sometimes say they were too big. I held a cupcake tasting comparing 4 shops and see what’s going on in the cupcake scene (can’t believe I just typed that).

11:14 A.M  Coffee beverage #3…Espresso

11:30 A.M.  Next stop Tallula to change a dessert.

Bye bye buttermilk panna cotta with peaches & nectarines, hello red kuri squash cheesecake.

I just need to go to the restaurant to show plating, give tasting notes.

No 2 restaurants have the same desserts (except the cookie plate)so it takes a ton of brainpower to come up with all those dishes.

12:01 P.M.  Creme fraiche sausage (made by me) topped with a breakfast sausage biscuit.

12:54 P.M.  Off to Tallula.

It usually only takes 15 minutes but I took 2 calls en route and missed my turn.

My “meeting” times are in the car. One with Michael [Babin, owner of Neighborhood Restaurant Group] [and] with Nate Anda about bread I’m developing for Red Apron. I really need to get an earpiece though… Putting my phone on speaker and shoving it in my cleavage is not super becoming.

1:32 P.M.  Uh, what a treat! A “porkstrami” sandwich from Nate at Red Apron… Pork sirloin brined for 14 days, cold smoked, then sous vide. Sliced thin with smoked pork jus, bacon braised kraut & whole grain aioli. ilovemylife.

He’s going to do an assortment of sandwiches so I gave him a bunch of breads to try as a jumping off point. He asked me to try a brioche made with olive oil instead of butter… Tried a cheddar Pullman, pumpernickel, and a whole wheat hoagie roll.

2:02 P.M.  Chef nerd alert… Nate Waugaman [chef at Talulla and EatBar] just gave me the best set of spoons for quenelles… Look how cute the little one is!!!!!!

2:37 P.M.  Just got to Buzz Slaters [Lane]!

Help bake some layers of parsnip cake.

It’s made in the same type as a carrot cake but with parsnips instead so it’s a bit more earthy. Cream cheese filled with toasted walnuts. Vanilla Italian buttercream on the outside.

3:00 P.M.  The Buzz/Birch kitchen are like 2 completely different worlds! Buzz is ALL women & Birch has only 2 women total. At first I was worried, but it’s actually kinda nice. They have so much more to talk about than d*ck & fart jokes. And the environment is very supportive.

3:30 P.M.  Iced chai with 2 shots & soy milk.

Working on specialty cake order menu. Favorite: Almond cake. It’s hands down my best recipe. Sooooo moist. Least favorite: Vanilla. It’s just… vanilla.

4:00 P.M.  Swinging by the corporate office to give the menu tweaks.

6:04 P.M.  Woot Woot. Front row street parking right outside Birch…

After I change I start picking through the station to make sure everything looks beautiful and tastes right.

We have a dessert with cured foie [gras]/PB mousse. It’s really expensive and if not handled correctly easy to ruin…

Kyle just gave me a taste of a new menu item. Deep fried pig tails tossed in Asian sauce…Crunchy, a little heat. Really meaty with tender fat…

7:00 P.M.  Out with the stone fruit in with the pear/apples/squash/spices!

7:16 P.M.  Damn. Boil over…

It’s about to become chocolate glaze for the top of the snickers bars… The good news is even though it makes a big mess the amount that is actually lost is negligible.

7:30 P.M.  A guest just ordered a pork loin, well done. We all laughed at that… Mmmmm dry, over cooked pork. Yum!

7:47 P.M.  I let my sous run the stations since they are on them every day. I just pitch in and help where they say they need me. I’m helping smooth cheesecakes they just cut.

8:00 P.M.  I almost always have a cheesecake dessert on the menu here because I LOVE CHEESECAKE. It’s my one sweet weakness. Wait, I have another, raw cookie dough.


I just put a new item on the cookie plate. A disk of frozen eggless cookie dough dipped in chocolate.

I try to stay in the know on [other pastry shops], although it’s hard. I try and have tastings … so I can constantly critique our stuff against everyone else.

Northside [Social] and Bayou [Bakery] are both great so I love trying their stuff.

8:45 P.M.  When I checked in a few hours ago the [Buzz] Ballston shop said they’ve been busy. Slaters said they are busy with lots of special order cakes for this weekend. I need 20 small parsnip cakes.

9:01 P.M.  Now I’m helping Hannah tag team devils food cake batter… She gave me her recipe notebook which I promptly “lost” but then we found it in the walk-in.

9:16 P.M.  I usually spend the day bouncing around so much that I scavenge for food. There isn’t much to eat savory at Buzz. I lean on Rustico a lot.

10:11 P.M.  Last entrees going out now, 5 more tables for dessert. Starting to scrub the back station.

Tossing bread (or feeding to starving waiters).

We save some stuff. Haney (the meat cook) eats a lot of it. He used to do a thing on Thursday nights where he would eat anything for $$$ but then he got a raise and stopped doing it.

10:32 P.M.  Just loaded 100 orders of braised pig tails & 100 orders of tots into my Mini Cooper. I felt kinda ridiculous walking through the dining room with flip flops, a purse and a full sheet tray of pig tails on my


10:45 P.M.  Just a drop off [at Tallula] unless EatBar is open, in which case I might have a drink since we missed shift drink.

11:03 P.M.  It’s time for round #1. Kyle’s going Brooklyn Brown Ale. I’m having a “Commonwealth” Bourbon, lemon, Optimal Wit beer.

11:35 P.M.  Life is all about finding someone to “go halfsies” with… That’s what I always think as Kyle and I share our food/drinks.

He knows I don’t like hoppy beers so he got a Brooklyn Brown cause it’s malty.

We just crushed a charcuterie plate Nate brought out.

11:53 P.M.  Round #2. Oban on the rocks for me. Chasing with a Williamsburg AleWerks.

Well I just took Kyle’s Basil Hayden to finish it off… Bar is closed but the drinks will continue at home. :)

12:26 A.M.  Heading home. Maybe have at least 1 more…

12:55 A.M.  2 Bluecoat gins w/limeade, a quart of ice water and some popcorn.

I’m gonna type up some recipes and Kyle’s gonna work on his mise en place list. Or watch Dragon Ball Z.

1:27 A.M.  Kyle opted for Dragon Ball Z. He specifically said not to call it anime cause it would make him seem like a d*ck. But if it’s animated with a weird story line and all the girl characters have huge boobs it’s anime to me but what do I know.

Round #5. More of the same. Can’t get enough Bluecoat!

2:44 A.M.  Finally time to hit the hay.


Slightly edited for style and readability. Darn auto-correct.


(December 2012)

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