Just desserts for a backwoods boy-turned master chef
Even his school counselor laughed at Marshall Faye's dream of baking. Now the master chef has the last laugh.
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Instead, he worked as a chef in various restaurants in the high pressure atmosphere of cooking to order. When he wanted to relax, he flourished a rolling pin and shuffled cookie sheets, relishing the slower rhythms of baking.Skip to next paragraph
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He might have been content to continue in that vein if it wasn't for the von Trapps, the singing Austrians portrayed in "The Sound of Music" and who, after escaping the Nazis, founded the lodge. Johannes von Trapp and his mother, Maria, who died in 1987, begged Faye to work at the bakery and tearoom of their hotel, near Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak.
Soon Faye began teaching classes to guests who constantly requested his recipes. Now his classes are seasoned with tricks of the trade (forget the KitchenAid ... just use your hands!) and based with his rich tales of Vermont life.
One of the most famous stories concerns the birth of the Von Trapp Linzertorte. As Faye tells it, Maria von Trapp adored linzertorte, a jam-filled cinnamon walnut crust. But she didn't much care for Faye's version, which he made with raspberry jam. Refusing to be beaten, Faye made a new linzertorte every day, tweaking the recipe for her. Every time, he'd climb the stairs to her apartment in the lodge only to hear her declare it wasn't quite right.
He was stumped until Johannes mentioned that currants grew in the part of Austria they were from. Faye decided to mix red currant jelly with raspberry jam, and – voilà – Maria cried, "Now that's a linzertorte!" That's the title of Faye's cookbook.
The musical matriarch had a sweet tooth, Faye says. She relished fresh pastry. And though she was frail and on a strictly supervised diet, she'd sneak down each morning at 5 to Faye's cozy kitchen, eat one or two pastries hot from the oven, and drink freshly brewed coffee heavily dosed with sugar. Then she'd crawl back under the covers until her nurse woke her up to her breakfast of dry toast, tea, and one poached egg.
Faye's high school reunion is in a few months. His teasing classmates have been dining on humble pie, but are quite happy he pursued his passion: Many stop by the bakery to load up on apricot frangipani and homemade granola.
This backwoods boy is more than a baker. He and his late wife, Bonnie, raised two children and had 44 foster children over the years. They raised their own food to feed the family. And Faye continues to devote time to civic programs – including volunteering to help ex-cons keep up the terms of their probation.
Nor is the Yankee baker stingy – or vain when it comes to sharing recipes. "I'll share recipes with everyone," he says. "I could give 10 people a recipe and it will come out 10 different ways."
There have been many changes in the world of food since Faye began. Artisanal bakeries are back in vogue, and celebrity chefs open restaurants with the fanfare of rock stars. The Food Network is one of the most watched TV channels.
None of this seems to faze Faye: "I'm delighted that this business no one wanted to talk about has grown to people having an interest in how food is produced. Of course a lot of it isn't the real world and a lot of it is for entertainment."
With his stories and tricks it's easy to picture Faye in a studio kitchen whipping up maple cream pie.
But it will have to remain just that, a picture. "Shows have approached me, but I've always said no. It's not for me. I'm a Vermont boy."