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Woman on top 

Graduate school brought Patti Roth to Atlanta, but restaurants kept the philosophy and linguistics major here. Although she didn't attend culinary school, she's worked in some the city's finest kitchens, from her first job at the Vinings Inn to Nava, Bacchanalia and stints as pastry chef at Canoe and Woodfire Grill. Thirty-nine year old Roth is a twofer: a woman and a single mother in the largely male-dominated culinary world. She now helms the kitchen at Luxe, a New American restaurant that opened downtown last year.

Creative Loafing: So, how are you balancing being a working mom with your career as a chef?

Roth: My daughter just turned 12 weeks. I have an au pair who lives with me, and my mom and dad and sisters and their spouses all live nearby. My sous chef and I alternate nights and lunches.

How would you describe the differences between being a pastry chef vs. an executive chef?

They are completely different. Pastry is more difficult for me -- it's all chemistry. If you have one ingredient wrong, it's all over. With savory, you can usually fix your mistakes. Pastry ingredients are a lot more limited, so it forces you to be a little more creative.

What are the challenges of opening a restaurant downtown?

Downtown is tricky. You need to lure locals downtown but it has a convention reputation and is perceived as a little dangerous. We've had to really work to draw a crowd at lunch, with a faster dining menu. Our long bar is often empty and it makes the restaurant look empty. So we are adding counter dining with a limited express menu: in and out in 20 minutes. The challenge at dinner is getting people to stay downtown. I've created culinary cocktails with fresh herbs and fruit purees, like blackberry and lemon verbena with Makers Mark and vodka with grapefruit tarragon. If they drink, they often stay for dinner.

As one of a handful of female chefs in the city, do you perceive a difference in how you are treated?

To get to where I am now, I had to work harder than men. I have worked for women, like Annie [Quatrano, at Bacchanalia]. Sure, there are some sexist guys, but a lot aren't. I say leave -- don't whine about it. I belong to Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, so I can sound off. Hey, maybe there are fewer of us because you don't look pretty in the kitchen.

What dish has been your biggest success?

One day, someone was joking around about Hot Pockets. I had some leftover mashed potatoes, Serrano ham, sage and manchego cheese I stuffed in a flaky pastry; it became our potato croquettes. People love them.

Luxe, 89 Park Place. 404-389-0800.

chefstable@creativeloafing.com

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