Pastry chef Ken Bredeson enjoys sweet gig at casinoWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Ken Bredeson, executive pastry chef at Hollywood Casino Toledo, turned 38 on May 8 — but he did not make himself a cake.
“My birthday [present] is not making a cake, even though my favorite cake is probably German chocolate because that’s what my mom used to make me every year,” Bredeson said.
Bredeson moved to Toledo from Kansas City, Mo., about four months ago after working as the pastry chef at the Ameristar Casino Hotel for about eight years. But, before he worked in casinos, he was attached to his mother’s apron strings.
His mother worked as a sommelier while Bredeson was growing up. “She couldn’t afford a babysitter so the kitchen was the babysitter. I was sitting with chefs when I was 7, 8 years old, working in the kitchen, learning how to make mother sauces, cutting and using a knife; you know, child labor,” he joked.
The Denver native was also exposed to many different cultures growing up. “I’ve lived all over the world because I was an Air Force brat. We lived everywhere from Asia to Europe to South America, all over the place. I was traveling from as far as I could walk until my mid-teens,” he said.
The pastry chef spent those teen years working in various kitchens learning the ropes before pursuing college. Despite having other ambitions, he couldn’t shake the need to cook. When he got a job at a bakery while attending the University of Kansas, he was hooked.
“[Cooking] kind of stuck with me even though I went to college for three years and almost finished my law degree,” he said.
Bredeson eventually landed an internship baking in France and Italy through a colleague.
“I learned old-school baking, really old-school; no gas, no nothing, just fire,” he said.
After returning to the states in 2001, he started working at an artisan bakery and later became a partner at a Kansas City bakery called Morning Glory.
After two and a half years at Morning Glory, Bredeson was ready for a change and relocated to Las Vegas. It was there that he decided he wanted to run a kitchen some day. “Every chef has a point where they make a decision of where they want to go. Whether they want to continue on in the kitchen working in the trenches every day or becoming more of a leader,” he said.
At the encouragement of his family, Bredeson returned to Kansas City and began work at Ameristar as the assistant pastry chef before becoming executive pastry chef a year and a half later.
At Ameristar, Bredeson became acquainted with Chef Brian Hein who now serves as executive chef at Hollywood Casino Toledo.
When Hein approached Bredeson about working together again, he
“Where we were at before (Ameristar), we kind of reached our ability to grow and he was like, ‘If you want an opportunity to do more and become more, Penn [National Gaming] has opportunities to do that,’” Bredeson said.
Hein is also excited to have Bredeson on board. “He’s an asset for us on both sides of the playing field. Not only is he an expert in the bake shop and a master bread maker, he understands the savory side of what we do,” Hein said.
The new kitchen is already abuzz with Bredeson’s staff of 10 testing out things. When Hollywood Casino Toledo opens its doors, Bredeson estimated the kitchen will make 6,000-8,000 bread products daily along with 500-700 hot dog buns. The bakery is responsible for 249 different products for all four casino restaurants.
“It takes a definite art to be able to get it all organized, basically [with] time management and crossover shifts. I have some really skilled bakers,” Bredeson said.
This includes his two lead bakers Brandi Smith and Marisa Edelstein, both of whom Bredeson praised with helping get the kitchen running.
Smith tapped into her connections as an instructor at Owens Community College to bring on other bakers. She praised Bredeson’s ability to work with the staff.
“Chef Ken is a very creative mind. He’s actually been open to our feedback and having us bring in menus and recipes so I think that’s an amazing thing,” she said.
Edelstein came to the area after working in Las Vegas and brings her love of the baking process. “I love when a project comes from start to finish. You’re like, ‘I really accomplished that, my name is on that,’” she said.
For his part, Bredeson enjoys the basics: bread.
“Bread is one of those things where it’s the fundamentals of baking. It’s probably where baking started. Not to mention it’s the only product you really make in the bakery from when you start making it to when you finish, it’s a living product,” he said.
Still, the pastry chef also likes some unusual creations like the Irish Car Bomb dessert that will be served at Skybox Sports Bar. This dessert pairs a dark stout brownie and whiskey ganache with an Irish cream milkshake.
“I really enjoy molecular gastronomy, where you deconstruct the atoms, put it on a plate, and people think they know what it is and they eat it and they’re surprised because the flavor’s not really what they expected,” Bredeson said.