Until I met Melissa Murphy Hagenbart, I didn't think character and fate could be foretold by the date of one's birth.
Melissa is the chef behind Sweet Melissa Patisserie, the greatest pastry shop in Brooklyn and one of the best in all New York City. A lot of work goes into being a successful baker, but it's hard to believe that the way Melissa was born didn't have something to do with it too. On Thanksgiving in 1970, Melissa's mother, Pamela Weill, insisted on cooking dinner, including two kinds of pie, even though she was nine months pregnant. After the meal, she packed herself off to the hospital and had Melissa. Actually, she knew she was in labor early in the day but kept quiet because, she says, "I thought they wouldn't let me eat my dinner."
Pamela feels that her daughter was destined to work in the restaurant business. Some other aspects of Melissa's life were also decided on Thanksgiving, it seems. The pastry chef who was born after the pie course can make dainty French tarts with the best of them, but says, "I'd rather do classic American desserts that taste incredible but look just okay, instead of desserts that don't taste as good as they look." Before opening Sweet Melissa, Melissa made a name for herself in Manhattan at Home Restaurant and Drover's Tap Room. "A lot of people who've worked for me want to do 'uptown desserts,'" says David Page, who owns both restaurants. "Not Melissa."