Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Chef Mary Cech has had a long and storied career as a pastry chef. After graduating from the International Pastry Arts Center in Bedford Hills (White Plains), New York in 1986, Mary not only went back into the baking industry as a pastry chef. Her culinary career took her all over the country including Manhattan, New York; Greenwich, Connecticut; San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; Maui, Hawaii; and Phoenix, Arizona.
Mary relentlessly refined her skills through ongoing enrollment in professional pastry classes taught by culinary luminaries like Ewald and Susan Notter. In addition, she was a member of the IPAC Baking and Pastry Culinary Team competing with other industry professionals at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York City. From 1986 to 1990, Mary secured the gold medal every year, culminating in her crowning achievement of “Best of Show” in 1990.
Shortly after graduating from the CIA, she worked as a pastry chef for one of the most highly influential and celebrated American chefs and restaurateurs, the late Charlie Trotter. During her time there, the restaurant went from a 3-star to a 4-star rated restaurant.
She continued to work at a number of high-profile, prestigious resorts and restaurants including the Grand Hyatt Wailed Resort & Spa in Maui, and the Cypress Club Restaurant in San Francisco, where she was the opening pastry chef for these Five-Diamond resorts. She was also the corporate executive pastry chef for Richard Melman’s restaurant group, “Lettuce Entertain You” in Chicago. In addition, Mary was actively sought out by the Culinary Institute of America to join their team as an opening instructor at their newly established Greystone campus in Napa Valley, California, where she became one of the inaugural culinary educators.
Throughout the 2000s, Mary wrote her first of two cookbooks her first cookbook with Chronicle Publishing, “The Wine Lover’s Dessert Cookbook: Recipes and Pairings for the Perfect Glass of Wine,” focusing on desserts and dessert wine pairings. After publication, it expanded her teaching endeavors by promoting her book to home chefs and offer her expertise to diverse institutions such as Sur la Table, Publix, Viking Culinary Schools, and various other organizations. Simultaneously, she lent her skills as a pastry consultant to several companies.
From 2009 to 2010, Mary was the Corporate Pastry Chef for Talisker Club where she wrote her second cookbook, “Savory Baking: 75 Warm and Inspiring Recipes for Crisp, Savory Baking” and once again promoted it around the country. At the commissary bakery, she hired all staff, developed and executed pastry menus for eight locations with a staff of seven, and delivered twice daily to each outlet.
In 2011, she taught pastry culinary education for the Park City Culinary Institute, a newly developed school starting in Park City, Utah. The school eventually moved locations to Salt Lake where she became an instructor. In 2013, Mary moved out to Phoenix Arizona and worked as the Senior Pastry Chef at Marriott’s Desert Ridge Hotel and Spa.
She returned to Utah the year after and, once again, was teaching at Park City Culinary Institute while working in the bakery at the Zermatt Resort. It was at this time, Mary became a freelancer and only was only working part-time as she approached retirement.
Mary has won prestigious recognition twice as one of the “Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America” by Chocolatier magazine and was named “Pastry Chef of the Year” by Chefs in America in 1992
Mary’s achievements include five first-place awards and “Best of Show” at the New York Culinary Arts Show; a presentation of her desserts at the James Beard House; and being an integral team member, along with Chefs Gilles Renusson (now Chairman of the US Pastry Team), and Eric Bedoucha, representing the United States at the 1991 Coupe du Monde World Cup of Pastry Competition in Lyon, France.
Looking back at her time competing, Mary says that she “loved the aspect of competing.” She went on to say that it gave her an “additional outlet into creativity, precision, and discipline.”
“I loved the memories of the entire experience,” said Mary. “Everything from staying up endless hours to meeting some of the best professionals the industry has to offer.”
For any pastry chef aspiring to become a part of the U.S. Pastry Team, Mary says to be open, technically precise, and let the rest come to you. Most importantly, have fun.
As a part of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and the Western Trade Association’s initiative in Asia, Mary has traveled to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, China, and India serving as a chef representative for the USDA, Western Trade Association, and American Embassy, teaching pastry arts, and assisting in developing the Asian baking industry.
Mary also served as director of Baking and Pastry for Cook Street School of Fine Cooking in Denver, Colorado.
Mary’s recipes have been featured in numerous publications including Bon Appetit, Chocolatier, Art Culinaire, Veggie Life, and numerous cookbooks.
As with many individuals, Mary lost both her jobs, close to retirement, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was at this point she decided to leave the snow behind and retire in St. George, Utah, where Mary has kept her love for teaching alive by providing cooking classes encompassing savory cuisine, baking, and pastry to her local community. This dedication has resulted in a thriving clientele, an extensive mailing list, and the creation of a newsletter featuring demonstrations and hands-on learning. This ongoing pursuit of her passion not only fulfills Mary but also brings satisfaction to fellow cooking enthusiasts, making it a mutually rewarding experience for herself, her devoted followers, and the community.
Mary can be followed on Facebook.