Pastry chef Shelley Yoder | Photo by Gretchen Bell Photography

If you think working as a pastry chef for one restaurant sounds daunting, imagine creating desserts for seven.

That’s essentially the job of Shelley Yoder, pastry chef of Olé Restaurant Group, the company that owns Mercato Italiano, Artesano Vino Tapas Y Mas, Guaca Mole Cocina Mexicana, Mussel & Burger Bar Jeffersontown, Mussel and Burger Bar Downtown, El Taco Luchador, and Red Barn Kitchen.

It’s a fairly diverse array of restaurant styles, but Yoder is more than capable and enjoys the challenge.

“I love the amount of freedom I have to play around, and with so many concepts in this restaurant group, it’s really anything goes,” she tells Insider. “Oh, and working days is pretty awesome, too.”

Yoder started working for Olé two years ago as the executive sous chef, and when the pastry chef position opened up six months later, she jumped at the opportunity.

As a child, the Sullivan University graduate learned a lot by spending time in the kitchen with her mother as she whipped up dinner. She also recalls watching Julia Child and “Great Chefs of the World” on TV.

“My mom is an amazing home cook. We sat down for dinner as a family pretty much every night. I was the kid in elementary school who liked clam sauce with her spaghetti,” says Yoder. “Mom being in the kitchen so much definitely influenced my love of cooking.”

Yoder worked at Corbett’s An American Place and Louvino prior to landing at Olé.

Red Barn Kitchen’s Banana Puddin’ | Photo by Shelley Yoder

One of her most sought-after specialties is the banana pudding at Red Barn Kitchen, which features banana caramel, banana brûlée, toasted meringue and Nilla Wafers. In fact, it’s the company’s biggest dessert seller of all its restaurants.

“I knew it would be a hit, but it’s ridiculous how many people tell me they love the banana pudding,” says Yoder. “It’s all about recreating moments for people, and most of us loved banana pudding when we were kids. It might not be exactly like Grandma made, but it tastes like it.”

We caught up with Yoder before she began another batch of puddin’ to ask her some very important questions …

What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?

I would love to swim or kayak in a bio-luminescent bay. That has to be so surreal and the most magical experience.

Nelson: Proof hairbands made it into the early ’90s.

What poster was on your wall in junior high?

Besides all the New Kids on the Block posters, I also had a Nelson poster — if anyone even knows who that is anymore.

If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?

I can’t think of any one person, but I think small business (restaurant) owners deserve some recognition for what they add to the community. They provide jobs and keep our city unique. Not only that, but it takes a lot of hard work and personal sacrifice to keep a small business up and running. They really make our city what it is.

What are your preferred pizza toppings?

If I’m feeling basic: Italian sausage, banana peppers and black olives. If I want to get fancy: no sauce, just some garlic oil, caramelized onions, mushrooms, goat cheese, shaved Parmesan and truffle oil.

If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?

I’d have to say 23. I was done with college (the first time), and the amount of bills/responsibility was still low but there was always something fun going on. And I lived off Bardstown Road.

What famous person do people say you resemble the most?

In college everyone used to tell me I looked like Anna Paquin, but I don’t see it.

Going up?

Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?

Stephen Colbert. He’s the coolest. We would have so much to talk about (politics), and I’m sure some form of hilarity would ensue.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."