Chef Natalie Saben: Pastry Chef, Pacific Standard Time

Born and raised outside of Chicago, Chef Natalie Saben has been cooking since she was just seventeen years old. She began working in kitchens during her senior year of high school, where she spent weekends at her neighborhood bistro learning as much as she could about cooking. From there, she went on to work as a Sous Chef at Viand Bar & Kitchen and Opera Restaurant before becoming the Tournant at Graham Elliot in 2009. It was here that she began to discover her identity as a chef and quickly rose through the ranks to join the opening team of Graham Elliot Bistro as Sous Chef, where she helped start the restaurant’s pastry program. In 2014, Natalie became the Pastry Chef at award-winning restaurant Grace. In her first role focused exclusively on pastry, she worked alongside Chef Curtis Duffy to lead the pastry department and develop new desserts. In 2015, Natalie was named one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30.

In the spring of 2018, Natalie joined the team at Pacific Standard Time as Pastry Chef.  Pacific Standard Time is a market-obsessed, hearth-driven restaurant that brings the warmth and authenticity of California farms and artisans to the heart of downtown Chicago. It is the first restaurant from Chef Erling Wu-Bower and Joshua Tilden of Underscore Hospitality and has been created in partnership with One Off Hospitality’s Paul Kahan, Donnie Madia Gianfrancisco and Terry Alexander.

What do you love most about Your City?

All the summer festivals that take place, as well as being able to walk most places!

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

My favorite place for breakfast is Lula Café in Logan Square. It’s my favorite spot because it has that neighborhood feel where you feel comfortable sitting, relaxing and enjoying your morning, plus they’re food is so incredibly ingredient driven. The service is impeccable, and they also showcase art from local artists.

My go-to order is the breakfast burrito with a short stack of pancakes. I love the breakfast burrito because I can slather it with sour cream and have a salty, protein-loaded dish to get my day started, but I am truly a sugar person so I still need my pancakes covered in maple syrup. It’s a happy balance!

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – Sleeping! I wish I could say something cooler, but I am most definitely sleeping.

10:00 AM – I am either at work or heading in with coffee in hand. Right now I’m switching the menu from summer to fall, so I’m working on a fig and lemon dessert as well as stages of an apple baba.

12:00 PM - Favorite Power Lunch spot/meal?

Around this time I am immersed in dough work - my team makes all the pita for the restaurant - as well as in the middle of lunch service, so I don’t really have a regular lunch spot. Portillo’s, however, is across the street from us and I am a sucker for their cheeseburger and cheese fries!

7:00 PM -  At this point in my day, we are in dinner service and I spend my time helping my pastry cook on the line when needed and working on remaining prep or new dish development.

11:00 PM – Depending on the day, I am either home and falling asleep on the couch or at the restaurant finishing up the orders and looking ahead to tomorrow’s prep.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I need coffee to start my day like most of the world, but I thrive on Lemon Lime Gatorade and a Coke to end my day.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

My most used app is Instagram, and my favorite account it @breadbakersguild.

What should everyone try at least once?

The theater —  I love going to the theater and seeing musicals. I think people get caught up in the idea that theater is boring, but it’s really not - I’m always mesmerized by the choreography and the singing.  

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

In a good book - I’m currently lost in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.