Born into a military family that was always on the move, Tandra Watkins was brought to Arkansas when she was young. She learned to appreciate food and family early in life, and with her fathers’ guidance she spent most of her free time in the family garden and then eventually, in the kitchen. These early lessons taught her patience, and that hard work eventually has its’ reward.
Tandra gained her first culinary experiences at home, at eighteen she started working in local family-owned restaurants as a prep cook. Before long she began catering for private events.
But it was when she moved to France that confirmed what she had already known: pastry was her true love.
Tandra continued her training abroad at Le Cordon Bleu Paris and immersed herself in Frances’ food culture. While in Paris she studied under many of the finest pastry chefs, and jumped at every opportunity to learn by staging at some of the best patisseries in the city. Through her experiences she gained a deep appreciation of French cuisine and its’ cultural heritage.
Shortly after, with her diploma in hand, she moved to Lisbon. While in Portugal she returned to catering and took full advantage of her proximity to other countries, and travelled throughout Europe to broaden her culinary vocabulary.
Upon her return to the United States, Tandra moved back to Arkansas and joined the pastry department at the Capital Hotel just prior to it’s reopening in November 2007. Over the next two and a half years, with practice and practical experience she mastered classic techniques and execution before assuming the role as Pastry Chef.
Tandra manages pastry for the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Ashley’s, as well at the Capital Bar & Grill, banquets, catering services, room service, and custom- made cakes for Little Rock’s society weddings.