Susan Lor serves dual roles at Dallas’ vibrant Knox/Henderson district gems: Gemma,
seasonally inspired New American, and Sachet, Mediterranean-inspired fare and shareable plates. CW Magazine caught up with Susan in the middle of baking a cake and rolling pita dough; pastry chef, baker, she does it all.
With multiple facilities and multiple roles, how does the juggle work for you?
The biggest thing I’ve learned doing both restaurants is managing time. What takes longest comes first, all the little things come in between. [Gemma and Sachet] are maybe 8 minutes apart. If I come to one place and I’m prepping then I go to the second one, and the first one needs more stuff so I come back and make something fast and go back to the other one… It can be inconvenient. And it can be hard to know what our sales are going to be, particularly during Covid – I don’t know what items are going to sell more than the other, or if I run out of bread at one place, so it’s always like a hit-and-miss whack-a-mole. I do my best.
Do you have a team?
It’s just me. When I need help my line cooks are more than willing. And my sous chefs are really kind and will help me with this or that. I’ve come to a point where I can manage my time really well and make sure I always over prep so that at the beginning of each day I have something already to start with.
Sounds like work. What do you get back from what you put into it?
You know, a lot of times it feels like I’m being overworked but…it’s gratifying. Definitely it’s a realization of something I want to do. And it’s a reminder, this is what I love to do. So this is what all it entails. And I’m showing my work. You can feel the love in it. And when it’s something that you love to do, you’re going to take the time and effort to do it right.
Tell us about your journey.
I’m originally from Fresno, right in the Central Valley. Born and raised. And I’m Asian-
American – the first thing I noticed when I moved to Texas was how friendly everyone was. Coming from California, no one says hi to each other, everyone is ice-boarded, keep to yourself. Here, one thing that I noticed was someone opened the door for me, and I was like ‘What? What are you doing that for?!’ – I’m making it sound like I was living under a rock my whole life but if feels like it because
I didn’t know the different cultures, other than my Asian ethnicity – Caucasian,
Hispanic, Ethiopian, Indian…it was really cool to see that in a big city because I’m a small town girl and I don’t know all that.
What are your favorites – flavors, ingredients…?
As a pastry chef? For someone to ask that?! Gosh, I don’t know! But one of the things I’m most proud of is making macaroons. In the French macaroon there’s just four simple ingredients: almond flour, sugar, egg white, water, that’s it. When I first went to culinary school I remember it was really hard to make. It took me three years to get it right and I finally did and…it’s amazing! And there’s so many little things that go into it: temperature, sugar, the folding aspect, the drying process, there’s so much that goes into this little tiny cookie. And it’s been really wonderful that I’ve been able to get that right.