HOT CHEF: Dawn Hodapp of Top Tier Delights

Born in California, Dawn has lived all across the United States, finally she settled here in Minnesota with her husband and son two and a half years ago. 

Dawn studied at Johnson & Wales University. She loves the more creative outlet of the pastry arts. “It’s a different passion, and what’s funny about it is, most bakers can cook, most of us are pretty mean cooks, but most of the culinary people cannot bake,” she states.

There was no defining moment that Dawn knew she was going to be a chef. She says, “When we were in Arkansas, all my friends were going to be a nurse or a teacher. Needles freak me out. Teaching could be fun but no. I grew up in the kitchen. I used to make dinner for [my parents)] and bake for them all the time. Then one of my older brothers said, ‘You know there are culinary schools. You should look into it,’ and I did.”



“I’m more of a purist in my craft. In baking, so much has gone into canned filling and boxed mixes. I don’t dig it. I make everything from scratch, in house, with fresh ingredients. We source local when we can find it. Good products [go in] to give people good products to eat.” That’s her baking style.

When asked what Dawn’s funniest kitchen incident was, she exclaimed, “The good ones are always when the mixers explode! The mixers have speed settings—butter creams are the funniest when they explode. If you are pouring the hot meringue in and the speed [of the mixer] is too fast and the butter is too cold, it will spring meringue all over you!”  That sounds like a meringue nightmare.


If Dawn doesn’t end up being murdered by meringue, what will her meal of choice be for her last supper? “It would be filet, and not just any filet, it would have to be [my husband] Christopher’s filet. He makes the best ever. I might be biased, but I don’t care. And artichokes with hollandaise. Oh, and Brussel sprouts with bacon and onions because that’s the best way to eat them. Then, probably like macaroons for dessert, but there are too many desserts to pick just one. Or wait, chocolate chip cookies. We make some bomb chocolate chip cookies. Crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside—straight-up out of the oven.”

Not only can this girl whip up a mean chocolate chip cookie; she can make an entire Thanksgiving dinner without a kitchen. “Right after we moved to Arkansas, we gutted the whole kitchen. It was just a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, and my mom and I made Thanksgiving dinner with a microwave and a hot plate. We found out we could bake brownies in a microwave, badly but [edible].”


One of Dawn’s five-year plans is to own her own little bakery. When it happens, I know I will be there every morning buying her goods, and I know you will too. Go down to the Rochester Event Center and get your free wedding cake tasting (if you are planning a wedding) or go to Cafe Steam to taste Dawn’s ultimate chocolate chip cookies and other baked goods.

Dawn Sanborn can make bomb chocolate chip cookies too, but she prefers to take pictures of them before eating.