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08 January 2007


I am so sorry to hear this! Here's to a quick back-in-the-saddle for you at a workplace where your life can be easier.

I am still looking forward to some Shuna desserts -- wherever they may be served -- the next time I make it out to the bay area.

As difficult as this must have been, I commend you on your decision. You are worth much more-- and the intimacy of kitchen work requires "partners" capable of ongoing, open, constructive dialogue-- something that you weren't getting there.

Hope you have a little time and space to fully detox from this.

As you know and we have discussed communications skills of most chefs is their Achilles heal. We are never taught team building and leadership skills and it is what separates über successful chefs from those that toil away in there kitchens, while maybe receiving accolades but never really growing. It is going to take a very special chef to support the platform on which you stand. Let the people who know you and the business be your litmus test for the next one.

I'm hoping that in retrospect this seems like one of the best things to ever happen to you. You are so talented that I can only believe that something infinitely better is just around the corner for you. And I wish there was a restaurant here that served desserts half as exciting as those sound!!!!! They didn't deserve you.

Oh Shuna, I am so sorry. This sucks.

hang in there shuna! i'd eat all those desserts x 10. take care of yourself, okay?

Having just experienced your desserts, I'm deeply saddened that they won't be so readily available (at least for the time being). From an outside perspective, your desserts simply eclipsed their food in complexity, originality and execution. It's really no shock that waiters used to their cuisine would find your desserts slightly beyond their grasp.
I know that this doesn't make it any easier for you, but seek solace in knowing that their truly is a better fit for you somewhere else.
For those that didn't get to try Shuna's creations, I'll describe only my favorite (for the sake of brevity).
The most fantastically flavorful ginger bread I've ever tasted with a delicate crumb and balanced sweetness paired elegantly with a brown-butter pecan ice cream (perfect texture) that got an electric jolt from a finish of smoked sea salt. These elements sat next to a cup, homey in appearance, but refined in taste. A coffee milk foam was the first impression, but the astringency of tanic coffee was smoothed by the milk before utterly giving way to the pure and unadulturated sweetness of pure pear. These elements were simultaneously comfortablly familiar and elegantly unexpected. Delicious. I licked the plate. Literally.
PS...the granite was so good that my friend started eating it alone and I had to insist she combine it with the Meyer Lemon sorbet to get the full effect, which was superb.
Hang in their Shuna, your passion and talent are truly appreciated and will undoubtedly find a more loving home somewhere else.

Being 3,000 miles away, I didn't get to taste any of the fabulous-sounding desserts. But I read your blog regularly, and from an outside perspective, it sounds like a bad match from a sophistication point of view. From the description of the desserts, these are a match for an extremely sophisticated group--both customers and waiters/managers/owners. It sounds to me like you were beating your head against the wall. When you recover from the shock, I hope the lack of beating freels good.

Shuna, I'm so sorry that things turned out this way, but you must know you made the right decision. That environment was going to serve one purpose only -- to knock you down. Your self-preservation instincts are obviously working, and though it can be incredibly difficult and even feel like you gave up [I went through a very very similar situation, leaving a job at just barely four weeks after having started it -- substitute the design/marketing world for the restaurant world], you did not. You've made the right decision, and there is a spot out there that is waiting for you, specifically, unequivocally YOU.


I'm gutted! We went to Aziza the week before you (re)started, and loved everything we wate, except the desserts. We were so excited to know that wouldn't be the case on our next visit.

But I'm glad you've made a clean break. And I'll look forward to hearing where the next landing spot is.

Kudos to you with getting out early with your mental health intact. This was not a love connection, and your departure is in no way a reflection of your skills, talents, or passions. No amount of time or effort on your part will change the way this particular restaurant is run or the attitudes of the chef or waitstaff. The gifted kid sometimes fails when thrown in with the "average" kids. They just don't get you, and are too scared to try. You are destined for something far greater.

Ack, what a roller coaster. How foolish of the chef and GM not to court you and keep you. Like you, I think the core of any good relationship-working, romantic, neighborly, political etc.-is how to have what Ben Franklin would call "productive conversation."

How frustrating it must be to show up, ready to talk, ready to be humble, creative, collaborative, and instead be met by stone walls.

It's outrageous to think that anyone would expect seamless perfection and compatability without constructive feedback, requests for modulation, or some form of mutual "checking in." Hard to believe that this was interpreted as disaster by the short-sighted owner & GM. Where is the love?

Sending sympathy and encouragement--I trust your palate and your hands will soon bring you new adventures and better partners who share your integrity, intensity, and joy.

Oh, Shuna, that is such a bummer. Working with people that don't communicate is the worst, but your desserts sound out of this world! We don't have anything like that in Portland, so feel free to move here anytime and perk up our desserts.

My heart sank when I read your entry. Your honesty is what brings us readers back to you every day. It sounds like you were being honest with your chef, but he was not willing to hear your words.

There truly is something better around the corner. Your heart and your life are far more important than feeling like a success in an unsupportive environment. Those that insist on making a fit where there so obviously isn't one ultimately end up selling out. You were brave enough not to compromise. Thank you for standing up for yourself.

sorry to hear about the job. I didn't get a chance to try your desserts but hope you find someplace new.

I wish you could start your own business but it probably cost too much money to do that.

best wishes. Take time to relax and detox.

Shuna, I'm sorry to hear that things didn't work out, but you're so talented, something amazing will be right around the corner.

This is a great review from some folks who came in last Saturday:

they will rue the day! greener pastures ahead

wow, crash and burn. I've been in this business for 13 years and been on scores of interviews. Here is some un-solicited advice on screening future employers:

1. ask for a job description for the position, this will guarantee you lose most jobs but it is fun to stumble an interviewer. Roll play interviews with a friend and cover all possible questions practicing on looking them right in the eye
2. ask to go through the entire facility, freezers, coolers, ice machine, pastry storage. See what stock products are there, do they use frozen puff pastry?, then you should too. Dont kill yourself . ice. Build a do-able menu working within the space you have. Most jobs have either too much or not enough. ask about the china, is it interesting? is there $ in the budget for some new dessert plates? again, fun watch them stumble.
3. Servers and the staff will determine your success more than the customer. no cat and mouse games. let the interviewer know your training ideas.Have a daily line-up with them at the same time every day for 5 minutes over desserts, have them taste new ones and even write the names on their arms so they dont forget. suggest wines to pair with the food, bosses love to hear that. servers are like, well, have you seen the movie "Freaks"? well, the freaks have a code, offend one and youve offended them all, servers are kind of like that. feed 'em but dont mistreat them.

ive seen ads for Garabaldis in oakland and Straits looking for pastry cooks. you should send a card to the owners to the effect of 'no hard feelings' even if there still are. i didnt like the tone from the one reader of the 'Persian men' and their attitudes, sounds like man/muslim bashing? perception is most everything...

It sounds like the relationship wasn't a match made in heaven, Shuna. I've never worked in your field, but surely communications has to be a very important part of any new venture like yours was, with them. Obviously, your talents far outpace those of the owners. But, most likely your ego is bruised around the edges right now. Wallow in it today, but know tomorrow you'll be a better person for it and there's something else for you - you just have to find it, or it will find you. You just haven't found your "home" yet, where you'll be allowed to be creative. You're in the right city, you've just got to find the right place. Hang in there, girl!

Shuna: I am glad you found my friend Jim's review of our Saturday night at Aziza. I finally wrote my own, specifically discussing the desserts.

On Saturday, five people went to Aziza specifically for the dessert. Sure, we loved the drinks, the starters, and the mains, but it was the desserts that capped off a spectacular dining experience. The precise blending of flavors and textures not only made beautiful and tasty dishes, but they conveyed the sense of artistry and thoughtfulness that one expects at a top-notch restaurant.

When it was time to order dessert and our waiter began handing out the dessert menu, I said "no need: we came here specifically for the desserts so bring out one of everything except the clementine." She did look slightly askance at us but carried it off well...and the server who brought the desserts described them accurately and with a smile. So, as far as we knew, there was nothing wrong. I guess that's how it should be, but if we had known there were unresolved issues, we would have been sure to make a point to express our pleasure at everything we had but especially the desserts.

Good escape, Shuna. You are glad you're out of there.
A little time in the stable, and soon you'll be back, nostrils flarin'.

Life is filled with unexpected twists and turns. Maybe a customer who runs a restaurant will remember your meyer lemons a wekk from now and seek you out. You never know. You have lots of talent, a voice, and a creative, overwhelming, and headstrong (in a good way) soul that will drive you to good things.

So sorry to hear it. I had been planning to make my first trip to Aziza, and had been looking forward to trying one of your creative desserts. Reading this sad post, it sounds like--in the words of Lenny Bruce--"you betta off."

In the meanwhile, I tip my hat to you and hope you find a place more deserving of your talents and stick-to-itiveness.

sorry for all of this trouble'll find your special place for your star to shine soon!

I had something similar happen to me last year, and in solidarity with you I'm never going to eat at Aziza.

If that sounds childish, well, I'm still mad.

If you want me to break their glasses, I'm your grrl. (-;

From Matthew 7:6
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

We know the beauty of a pearl, from looking to you.
With much hope,


You were smart. You cut your losses early. I have a friend who didn't and her physical and mental health suffered immensly. You are to be congratulated on being smart enoug to recognize an untenable situation before you invested too much emotional capital.

Good job, Shuna.

"Ah shit!" As my dear old grandma used to say.

It is quite obvious that these chefs have never heard of this extremely simple code of conduct.

Listen with your full attention,
Look for the good in others,
Have a sense of humor,
Say thank you for a job well done.

It seems they don't have the patience to wait and watch flowers bloom. Their loss. OOpsie their bad!

Be strong, be true to yourself , you will prevail.

Oh yeh and I canceled my reservation.

As you know, N and a few of our friends ate at Aziza on Friday. The meal was stellar, but we really came for the desserts (in fact, 2 of the people skipped the meal and joined us for dessert). We all feel priveleged that we had the opportunity to savor your sweet creations. I really don't know what the owners were thinking.

I felt like a kid in a candy store when our 5 desserts arrived. Each plate had 3 or 4 components, so it was like receiving 15 tiny desserts. It reminded me of our dinner a few years back at Grammercy Tavern in NYC, where Claudia Fleming's desserts overshadowed the rest of the meal (was that the chef's worry?).

We loved everything and would be hard pressed to choose a favorite. N was particularly fond of the yogurt granita that the owner surprisingly didn't like. When combined with the Meyer lemon sorbet and the candied peel, it was as refreshing as eating freshly fallen snow - the perfect ending to our rich, spicy meal.

As a chocolate fiend, I gravitated towards the "cocoa" dessert. I can still taste the cardamom cocoa nib chocolate chip cookies (please share that recipe with all of us. Pretty please). The hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows rocked my world too, not to mention that ice cream!

The "apple" dessert blew us all away as well (although I can't believe it was the only dessert to elicit positive comments). The mix of flavors (coriander cream, rosemary caramel, green apple ice) danced a samba across our tongues. It worked especially well at the end of our aromatic feast.

I could go on and on about the sensation of dipping gingerbread into the pear soup topped with white coffee foam and mesquite, but Aaron already captured that plate so perfectly. Just one thing, though. If I were to beg for another recipe it would be that brown-butter buttered pecan ice cream!

Shuna, I wish you all the luck in landing the perfect gig in the future. You're incredibly talented and we're all cheering for you. Like Cookiecrumb said, it was smart to get out of there quickly and not waste your energy on those who don't appreciate it.

For those who didn't have the good fortune I had to savor Shuna's desserts, you can at least get a glimpse of 4 of them here on my FlickR page.

Aw Shuna, sorry. Reading this entry gave me the PTSD shakes.

what makes me most sad is that I know, or at least I thought I knew that you and Maroud were friends before this happened. I am perplexed that that this sweet opportunity turned bitter and that the friendship and the promise of really great desserts was lost in what appears to be some kind of political struggle. It sounds like you made some customers very happy along the way and I am certain they all, every single one of them, will go out of their way to track down you and your artful sweet creations wherever you next lay your sailor buoy hat.


All your desserts sound fantastic (and I don't even have a sweet tooth). I look forward to trying them elsewhere. Definitely better to move on than put up with that.

Oh Shuna, I do think you will be better without this job, even if it's hard right now. Life is too short to try to please people who don't really know what they want. Best wishes.

Oh, Shuna, my thoughts are with you during this transition. I know that regardless of 'the why', this had to be a difficult decision for you. I didn't make it across the bay during your tenure a Aziza -- but I did spend an evening or two drooling over the dessert menu.

Please keep us posted as you regroup and find a new direction. (John and I are hooked -- we'll follow you and your caramel sauce anywhere.)

Damn. My sister and I were going on Wednesday, but won't now. Sorry to hear about the turn of events. Best of luck.

I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to try any of your fabulous-sounding desserts! But it sounds like it's really better this way.

I am very sorry! I will share with you that when I got laid off 3 years ago (I'm not a chef), it opened a door into a wonderful shift in my life, and opportunities I could not imagine happened.

I was all excited to go to Aziza in the next month to eat your deserts...! Oh well. I hope I do get to try them one of these days.

You will prevail, Shuna. My concerns were assuaged when I saw the relief on your face and I just thought, "They know not what they do". I believe in your talent and in your spirit-- te amo, mi amiga.

Shuna: I looked at your desserts on Brett's Flickr page (thanks Brett!) and they look amazing, as expected. Don't know what they were thinking, but it looked like you gave lots of people reason to go to a restaurant that they might not have been been inclined to go to. Perhaps now you can come back and do that internship here you were thinking about?

btw: Your Meyer Lemon made it into the World's Smallest Batch of marmalade...enough for one perfect jar!

So sorry. All your desserts sounded delicious. Sometimes we just have to get ourselves out of a toxic situation or be destroyed by it.


I was so sad to read your latest post, but I know you are on the way to better things, even if it doesn't feel like it right now. A year ago (almost to the day), I gave my employers the option to talk and reach a compromise or let me leave gracefully. They chose to let me leave. The next six months were very hard; I questioned whether I was in the right field, whether I was as horrible as they told me I was, whether I even wanted to do it again (I was afraid that any criticism would be painful after that). I even spent some time thinking maybe death would be the better route.
But the fact is, once I got past that place, the things that needed to happen in my life did happen. And I am better off. I went back to work with new employers, I sorted out my issues, and I can honestly say now that what I was doing then and doing now is some of the most rewarding work I can imagine. I love my job.

I don't love what I had to go through to get here, but I'm glad I learned all the things I did about myself. At the very least, I know I can rise to the challenge.

And I know you can, too. Hang in there. Criticism, even when it's wrong or unfounded, is painful. Their inability to look past their short-sightedness and their refusal to learn from the experience has nothing to do with you. Do your best to let it go and move on. (Even though you should feel free to curse them occasionally for the scars they left on your heart.)

Oh Shuna. Just reading this today. I'm so sorry. Hang in there, girl.

Shuna, A talent like yours won't stay idle too long. I always find you such an inspiration.....I can read your posts and find a bright light out of my little tensions.
It won't be long for you!

Even though I don't really know you I feel that I share in your life's roller coaster via your exceptional writing and reflective honesty.

All I can say in respect to this disappointment
is to "take what you like and leave the rest".
It's always wise to see one's part in any situation
and turn it into another one of lifes great learning experiences. There are difficult egos in every walk of life. Being like "the water that flows around the rocks" is good imagery and works much better than boulders hitting boulders.

All the best for your next chapter.

Wow! John, that was incredibly insensitive and rude. As you don't know the circumstances that surounded the split (and neither do the rest of us), your "advice" is really not constructive. Your comments show an agressiveness that is absolutely uncalled for. If you don't like what you hear, move on and don't read. Please, for the sake of blog crafters everywhere, remember that there is another person behind the computer screen. It is easy to rave and rant at a blank screen and say damaging things that you may have the sensibility never to say to someone's face. Keep that in mind. That's my advice.
Everyone else:
I think that readers have done a great job resuming the desserts that so many did not get to taste. The only one that seemingly has gotten left out of the party is "coconut." Please allow me:
This was not a sicky sweet coconut meets sugar concoction. Oh no! This plate highlighted the luxurious richness and depth of its star. A dense coconut financiere sat next to a martini glass filled with tapioca coconut pudding and crowned with a mixture of supremed citrus. The financiere was nutty, the essence of coconut. It was something I'd love to slice down the middle and add some jam to for breakfast. Then the pudding was creamy (made with coconut milk I assume?), again not too sweet. While this was silk for the palate, large coconut balls were a chewy diversion, a playtoy for the mouth. The milkiness of coconut softened the acidity of the citrus jewels, highlighting a delicate sweetness of fruit at its season's best. Subtle flavors met a symphony of textures.
Wherever Shuna ends up, run, don't walk, to taste her creations. That's my word of my own "advice."

Hey Shuna,
Thanks for being honest and brave and sharing your journey with us. You write with integrity, wit, and beauty. (Sigh.) Wish you could come make desserts for us up in Vancouver.

It's surprising that Mr. Aligheri refers to his hostile rant as "advice". However, it's not surprising that he fails to take his own ("That's an important lesson in life: knowing when to shut up").

He clearly knows nothing of Shuna's work, nor her qualifications as a chef (and I think after fifteen years in the industry she can accurately describe herself this way without being immodest).

As someone whose father has worked 70- hour weeks in construction for the last 25 years, I can say that there certainly are other dangerous jobs out there-- but that doesn't diminish the danger that all people who work in a kitchen face every day-- usually for relatively low wages and no benefits.

Mr. Aligheri's post reveals so much about the freedom the Web avails us; thankfully, this forum allows those with something constructive to contribute to respond with equal support for our friends and colleagues.

John's advice should have been done off-line in an e-mail to you...that was really inappropriate! Odd coming from someone who criticized you for the etiquette of posting public complaints.

And I can say from experience that whether you choose to leave or are asked to leave, when something isn't right it isn't right, and moving on is usually best for all people involved. The vista opens up when you aren't desparately trying to be a square peg in a round hole. Great things await you!

Mr. John Aligheri,

Your recent IP address has been banned from eggbeater. You comment is considered "flame" and I no longer partake in it, now knowing what it is. Please take your belligerence elsewhere.


shuna fish lydon
e g g b e a t e r
cooking, baking & nifty photos


Shuna, these desserts sound as if they did a glorious dance of flavors somehow simultaneously subtle and intense. My regret is that we were not visiting the area during your stay at Aziza so we could taste them; my surety is that someday soon we will taste other wonderful desserts of yours. Would that money were not an object -- we'd fly you East just to make our wedding cake(s)...

i had no idea this is what pastry chefs deal with. not incredibly different from when i made mistakes as a designer-in-training, but i had the benefit of constructive criticism and solution goals.


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