Pastry Chef, Paley’s Place, Imperial, and Portland Penny Diner
Michelle Vernier is the pastry chef for Vitaly Paley’s three Portland restaurants, Portland Penny Diner, Imperial and the landmark Paley’s Place. She came on board in March of 2012 with the knowledge and experience to create pastries and desserts for three distinct Portland establishments.
Before joining Paley’s in March of 2012, Vernier was the pastry chef at Wildwood, the assistant bakery manager at New Seasons and even ran her own pasta business in Portland. During the pasta days, Vernier bought chickens for fresh eggs because farm fresh eggs were simply too expensive. A Portland resident since 2006, Vernier studied cuisine and worked in Boston including a stint as the Pastry Chef at blu. She moved to Portland sight unseen because of the Rose City’s reputation as a bountiful region.
At Imperial, Vernier whips up desserts in the classic Americana tradition, including standouts like Lemon Poppyseed Meringue Pie and various cobblers. At Portland Penny Diner she showcases more playful items, while at Paley’s Place, sweets imitate the intimate setting with chocolate confections and warm ginger cakes, as well as homemade sorbets and ice creams, filling the menu.
Vernier’s affection for food started very early as she recalls being interested in cuisine as soon as she learned to walk. She grew up with an Italian mother who made ravioli and gnocchi; she also distinctly remembers gathering morel mushrooms and raspberries with her grandmother in her home state of Michigan.
Vernier spent a summer traveling through Europe and came back from Paris yearning to know more about bread and pastries. She worked with baker Michael Rhodes at Sel de la Terre in Boston and soon started to refine her own baking style, which eventually took her to Paley’s. Vernier knows the importance of showcasing quality ingredients and feels there should be a natural flow between savory courses and dessert: “I try to simplify and unify tastes in order to make the true flavor shine through.”
Raised in Michigan, Vernier now lives in Southeast Portland with her husband and son.