For this year’s Reader Key Ingredient Cook-Off, we asked some of Chicago’s top chefs to create a dish to honor a person who influenced their cooking. The exercise stirred many kitchen memories.

Chef: Sarah Mispagel

Restaurant: Proxi

White miso pot de creme with banana cake and macadamia nut crumble

Mentor: Tony Galzin, former pastry chef at MK

“I met Tony when I started working at MK, which was my first job in a restaurant kitchen. The rest of my culinary career had all been in bakeries. Tony was the first person who looked at my resumé and thought I’d be worth talking to. When I started there, I was embarrassed that there were certain things I didn’t know, that are more pastry-in-a-restaurant driven than pastry-in-a-bakery. He just said, ‘Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what something is. You’re here to learn.’ I try to treat all my people that way now, because it made me feel like that was a safe place to learn and to grow.

“The dish I’m making is inspired by one that was on the menu when I was working at MK called Two Bananas Walk Into a Bar. I believe it was one of the first desserts that Tony put on the menu when he got there, and up until probably two years after he left, it was still on the menu, like an MK fan favorite. It was a banana souffle cake with a dark chocolate foam, macadamia nut crumble, and a malted banana ice cream. I’m doing an Asian-inspired take on that: a white miso pot de creme with a steamed Vietnamese banana cake, dehydrated caramelized white chocolate mousse, and the macadamia nut crumble.”   v