stephanie fischer​ of comet coffee illustration by vidhya nagarajan

3 meals that changed St. Louis pastry chef Stephanie Fischer's life

If you’ve ever had a croissant from Comet Coffee, you know something about Stephanie Fischer. The woman behind those excellent pastries is thoughtful, meticulous and she must love butter. When the coronavirus pandemic hit St. Louis, Fischer started selling frozen potpies so Barnes Jewish Hospital employees who always stop by Comet could have something easy and satisfying to pop in the oven at home. She also added more to-go lunch items like cassoulet and Japanese curry. “It’s been fun to experiment a little bit and branch out. I enjoy cooking in addition to baking,” she said. Like her confections, her savory dishes are the culmination of a lifelong curiosity to learn about food. Here are three meals that changed her life.

“When I was about 14, my sister, who was a picky eater, went away to college. We were trying to get used to not having her around the house. Since I was a more adventurous eater, my parents decided to take me out for Indian food, which I had never had before. I was very intimidated by the menu; I had no idea what to order and I wanted to be sure that I was going to be comfortable eating it. The staff recommended tandoori chicken, and it was just very thrilling to taste something unlike anything I had ever had before. I think my mom had saag paneer and I tried a bite of that and I just fell in love with Indian food. That’s the moment when I realized food is a way to explore the world and have new experiences. My family didn’t travel much. [Food] got me really into trying new things and looking for new flavors.”

“Recently, we traveled to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We were in Lahaina and took a back road. There was a farm stand, so we pulled off to the side and they had the strangest fruits. We ate a fresh cacao pod – it was slimy and very buttery. The pod itself was kind of bitter, but it has this fruitiness to it. It was striking ’cause who thought of making chocolate from this fruit? The lady there was tapping the coconuts and was singing to them. She explained that she had to figure out which one was ready. It was very good, she lopped the top off with a machete. I’ll never forget that fruit stand in the middle of nowhere on the side of a road.”

“I had to be hospitalized for a few days in the psych ward. Every day we had meals with everyone – people from all walks of life, and obviously some of them have some deep issues they’re working through. From running a business, I’m amazed by how smoothly it ran and how warm everything still was. Everyone would calm down during meal time and it would get quiet and feel normal. I made friends with this man and he noticed me eyeing his coffee and I said, ‘I didn’t realize we could order coffee that isn’t decaf.’ He said, ‘Have mine.’ In such a scary environment and a horrible time when you just want to go home, it was a gesture that was so kind and so welcoming. It was really heartwarming to me that we were able to sit down and have this small community of very different people getting together and sharing a meal. I’ll always remember him offering me his coffee. … I feel like it’s important to be open about these things. I know that a lot of people in the hospitality industry struggle with different mental illnesses – anxiety, substance abuse and depression. Openness helps everyone talk about it collectively, and try to make changes within the industry.”

Comet Coffee, 5708 Oakland Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.7770,

Tags : People