Tania Cienfuegos Harris, pastry chef at Stella’s Southern Brasserie, has held leadership roles in kitchens and some impressive titles, like 2019 South Carolina Chef Ambassador, but she’s relieved to have returned to her true love of making pastries without any additional pressure.
“I’m so happy to not be in the manager role,” she says.
Harris completed four years of culinary school in her hometown of Mexico City before moving to the United States several years ago and has worked in various positions in some of Greenville’s most celebrated kitchens — the former High Cotton, Bacon Bros. Public House (with exec chef Anthony Gray), Restaurant 17, and most recently, The Lazy Goat. Then the pandemic hit. In March 2021 she was looking for a change when she reconnected with Gray in his new executive chef role at Stella’s Brasserie.
Though qualified to lead a kitchen and having trained in classical French cooking technique, she’s learned that managerial authority, especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry, comes with a side of stress she doesn’t care for.
So for now, she’s enjoying a break from that while putting her twist on well-loved Southern desserts that Stella’s regulars look forward to each week while also keeping the specials fresh for those looking for something a little different.
And she’s not done learning. Heading up a bread program that includes all of the sandwich bread, housemade English muffins and crackers, she’s also jumped into the world of the oft-temperamental sourdough. A perfectionist, she’s not satisfied until the dough is just right.
“It’s not my forte, but I love it,” she says.
Facts about Tania
She’s got a side-gig: “Azucar Skull” — a made-to-order dessert service featuring traditional Colombian pastries.
She doesn’t cook at home: “I feel like I’m not a good cook when I’m at home. How do moms do it?”
Go-to food stops include: Pasta Addict’s fried ravioli, Juice Box’s frozen riesling, Bar Margaret’s snacks and drinks, Compadres for the off-menu frozen margarita/wine floater, Waffle House (Texas bacon cheesesteak melt, hold the onions with crispy hash browns).
She’s recently discovered (and loves) raw oysters.