Mellisa Root is an acclaimed chocolatier and pastry chef based in Virginia. She grew up inspired by the legendary Julia Child, immersing herself in cookbooks at the local library and honing her culinary skills at home with her family. Eventually, Root discovered her true passion for baking, and with her mother’s encouragement, she decided to pursue pastry at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco. That was just the beginning for Root, who has since spent her professional life training with some of the most renowned chefs in the United States while racking up an impressive career of her own.
Root’s journey in the world of chocolate began under the tutelage of Laurant Branlard at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, followed by a move to Houston, where she supervised the pastry shop at River Oaks Country Club. Always with a competitive streak, she was coached by Pastry World Champion Darrin Aoyama to turn that competitive focus toward representing the United States at the Culinary Classic, where she led her team to win multiple gold medals.
In Las Vegas, Root took on the role of Assistant Pastry Chef to Gregory Gourreau and Francois Payard at Payard Patisserie. Again, she represented the United States at the 2008 World Culinary Olympics, where she racked up three gold medals. Root was the opening chocolatier at M Resort and Casino Las Vegas for Jean Claude Cannistier, MOF. She earned her three-star Michelin stripes alongside Elwyn Boyles at Thomas Keller’s Per Se in Manhattan.
The Executive Pastry Chef position at Rosewood Sandhill brought her back West, and she earned another Michelin star at Madera. It was there she developed a chocolate and confection line for the hotel, as well as an exquisite pastry, bread, wedding cake and dessert program for the resort. In 2013, she earned a Star Chef’s Rising Star Hotel Pastry Chef Award, as well as a Golden Whisk Award from the Woman’s Chef Organization for her contribution to the pastry and dessert world.
In 2016, Root moved to Portland, Ore., to open The Hairy Lobster alongside her husband, David Root, realizing their dream of running a chef-driven, seasonal, shared-plate restaurant. This unleashed her creativity; it was during this period that she designed some of the best-plated desserts of her career, not to mention the over-the-top themed dinner events the restaurant became known for. However, in 2020, The Hairy Lobster closed its doors due to the pandemic, along with so many other privately held businesses.
In 2021, Root relocated to Charlottesville, Va., to spearhead the pastry department for Farmington Country Club, where her focus has been on developing a chocolate program, in addition to growing and developing the club’s pastry and dessert program.
Root has consulted for two platinum level country clubs in New York and Texas, rolling out new programs based upon their individual needs. She has also consulted and implemented programs for a ground-up wedding cake and specialty cake store. And she has consulted and rolled out recipes for an edibles program at a small boutique.
Most recently, Root has channeled a capricious approach to candy- and chocolate-making in order to launch her own line, Mellisa Root Chocolates and Confection. These one-of-a-kind, small-batch, hand-crafted chocolates and candies are developed for the current season, intended to bring a little taste of joy to those with a sweet tooth. Root believes we eat savory food to nourish our bodies and dessert to nourish our souls. This guides her approach to dessert making, believing that each bite is a conduit to personal joy.
Root strives to lead a career that honors the guidance she received along her path. During her busy schedule, she prioritizes making time for her mentees and networks to continue to pave the way for the equitable culinary career trajectory of others.
Most recently, Root appeared on Netflix’s School of Chocolate, where you can see her competitive spirit meet her creative side—while admiring the cast’s drool-worthy chocolate creations.