carterwiseby Andi Agnew

Carter Wise is making me hungry. The 30 year-old chef is describing some of his favorite desserts that he crafts in his role as pastry chef at The Manship. He describes the chocolate silk tower, a staple on the menu that is just the right amount of decadence, and he tells me about the different flavors of wedding cakes he has been able to create in recent months. “I like doing specials for Alex (Eaton, owner of The Manship). He gives me freedom… not every restaurant will let you do a wedding cake. I get to do other things besides just doing plated desserts.”

This is important, because Wise is not your average pastry chef.

A native of the Fondren area, Wise graduated from Jackson Prep in 2002, at which time he set out to begin his culinary training. Rather than going straight into culinary school, though, Wise decided to go with a more traditional, hands-on approach.

“As a senior, I was looking into culinary schools, and obviously CIA (Culinary Institute of America) was at the top of my list. However, I took French in high school, and I was in the French exchange program. The English teacher in France told me that she could get me a stage (apprenticeship in the culinary world) working one summer over in France. I learned so much working in a kitchen,” Wise says.

After high school graduation, Wise decided to continue with the apprenticeship approach to learning the craft. He was pleasantly surprised to have his parents’ full support. “I remember coming back to the U.S. and getting in the car, and saying to my parents (Chuck and Joe Wise), ‘I’m going to put off culinary school for a year. Instead, I want to go back to France and work for a year. They were like, ‘Ok, sure, that sounds good!’”

Wise studied for two years in Carcassone, France, under Pierre Mesa, a pastry chef with Spanish roots. “As an apprentice going in, not knowing much about the craft itself, he formed me and molded me into what it takes to succeed in this industry. You have to have good energy to make it through the day,” he says.

With his heart set on getting a pastry degree, Wise completed another 2-year apprenticeship, this time finishing with a degree not only in pastries, but chocolaterie, Viennoiserie (“breakfast pastries like croissants – anything that touches flour is Viennoiserie,” he explains) and breadmaking under Jerome Lauvand.

Making the move back to Jackson has been an adjustment for Wise, but the food community here has made it easier. He mentions the camaraderie between himself and other bakers in town such as Mitchell Moore of Campbell’s Bakery and Gil Turchin of Gil’s breads. “I feel like we’re doing things at the Manship that are just now starting to happen in Mississippi.”

Since the writing and print publication of this article, Wise has accepted the position of Executive Pastry Chef for Walnut Restaurant Group in Boulder, Colorado.