When asked about how she got into ‘desserting’, Lisa Crowe, executive pastry chef at SKYCITY, said, “I know you want to hear a lovely story about my mother’s cooking and stuff—but she’ll be the first to say that cooking isn’t her thing.” Instead, Crowe said that her illustrious career behind the cakes and pastries on accident. “I had my first job in London, and from there, I never stopped.”

After being in the industry for more than 30 years, and holding her position at SKYCITY for the last four and a half, Restaurant and Café were interested in what has captivated Crowe for so long. “Working with young people is great,” she said. “They are very diverse, they keep you on your toes, and they keep you alive.” On top of this, Crowe mentioned her love of travelling, and the experiences she has had in foreign countries. “I think meeting different people, styles, cultures and chefs can keep the creativity going—it also pushes you to find your own style.” And, as Crowe continued, the importance of creating your own style became apparent. “I feel like it’s quite easy to become precious, and a little afraid to try new things out. But the process of being able to feel your way through things really helps to develop your ability.”

Crowe’s role at SKYCITY is multi-faceted. “When I first arrived, it was really about pushing things forward. But then I also wanted to be able to filter into the signature restaurants—something that would boost the confidence of the team.” Nowadays, Crowe’s primary role is management—of staff and projects. “I find it really hard to think about myself sitting behind a desk having to do the same thing over and over again. I just love that every day is different.” Crowe joked, “I don’t always know what’s happening today, though.”

With a team of around 40 chefs, Crowe works collaboratively with a lot of talent to ensure SKYCITY’s dessert operations are running smoothly. Making sure that she respects the creativity and toil that people are putting into their work was highlighted as imperative. “There is just so much passion and love for everything that’s going out, and I can appreciate that. On top of that, the hours that are being put in is incredible. I really appreciate and respect that.” Not only that, but Crowe has prioritised inclusivity. After spending time in Asia, where Crowe said it’s almost compulsory for hotels to hire employees that are deaf, she became interested in bringing similar practices to New Zealand. “It’s a much more complex situation over here, though. It took us around a year to figure it all out. But now, we have one part-time and one full-time deaf and partially deaf employee.”

New Zealand’s dessert scene is progressive, according to Crowe. “We’re moving in the right direction. We have traction, and we have all the hubs for it—we’re keeping the benchmark high, too.” In the dessert industry, which Crowe labelled as, “ever moving, never stopping,” Crowe talked about the changes in trends over the years. “When I was younger, one book would come out per year, type thing. Now, with Instagram and Pinterest and those sorts of things, everything is moving incredibly quickly. There is so much out there, and information is getting shared so freely. Lots of these ideas are helping people to become more flexible, and boundaries are being lifted—stuff is just happening all the time.” However, in a day and age where there is an overload of information, we were interested in finding out how Crowe determines the good from the bad. “I guess you have to just learn to see whether something is worth recreating, or whether it is simply something that will give you a good idea to build off.”

Behind all of her experience, Crowe still loves to be able to go out and relax and eat dessert without criticising. Her dessert of choice, you may wonder. “Anything to do with apples. Apple pies, apple tarts, apple compote, baked apples, or apple tartan—anything…”