“We like to say we are a coffeehouse, but we are more like a restaurant,” says Dominique Lindsay, general manager/pastry chef of Aromas at City Center. “We are considered a scratch kitchen, so we do make a lot of stuff from the base up.”
In 2013, central California native Lindsay followed her sister to Hampton Roads to help care for her twin nephews. A year later, she began her career as a pastry chef for Aromas Williamsburg.
A self-professed “lab rat” by trade, Lindsay loved baking from the time she played in her mother’s baking cabinet with its miniature décor and tools.
“I don’t know if that was the subconscious this-is-what-I-need-to-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life,” Lindsay says of her decision to complete her education at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Sacramento. “I decided that when I moved here, that was the route I was going to take.”
From pastry chef in Williamsburg, Lindsay trained in all aspects of Aromas’ service to be all-around useful in addition to her baking duties. In June 2017, she became general manager/pastry chef at Aromas in City Center and hit the ground running.
“I love my staff,” she says of her 16 coworkers who call her Do(Momma)nique. “The camaraderie my staff has is something you don’t normally see.”
Lindsay encourages them to be friendly with each other in order to enjoy the six to eight hours they are at work. She listens to them to help them be successful.
Lindsay’s assistant front-of-house manager, Tori Baird, is her right hand as is Carlton Gill, her manager.
“They allow me to be hands-on in the kitchen,” she says. “Seth Brennan, our kitchen manager, also handles a lot of stuff in the back which allows me to do the baking.”
This helps tremendously when Aromas books caterings, which include custom cakes, giant pastry and sandwich trays and boxed lunches.
Aromas features traditional coffeehouse offerings of fresh-roasted coffee, teas, espresso-based creations and smoothies. Earning its name as a scratch kitchen, Aromas serves breakfast items including bagels, waffles, croissants, French toast, omelets, grits and homemade granola; lunch options of salads, soups, sandwiches and specialty wraps; and dinner fare, featuring BBQ chicken, mac and cheese and Caribbean blackened salmon.
Its custom-made bakery items include Dominique’s vanilla cake, orange cake, colossal apple pie (it is at least 10 inches high), chocolate overload cake, biscotti, scones and muffins. The eatery bakes 13 different pastries in-house daily.
“I go to the baking section on our webpage and think, ‘I made those,’” she says of her proud accomplishment. “People look at this and say, ‘I want that.’”
Aromas is pet-friendly outside, facing the City Center fountain. Open Mic nights are featured and are active at most City Center events.
I like being a part of the community,” Lindsay says.
“I make this my home away from home,” says long-time customer, Penny McGrath. “I’ve adopted the kids working here and the food is great. My husband and I use this as our office, getaway and meeting space.”
“I love working here,” Lindsay says. “It doesn’t feel like work when I’m in the kitchen. And I am happy.”
Lindsay attributes Aromas’ success to owners, Don and Geri Pratt, who also own the Hound’s Tale and Barkery in Williamsburg.
“It’s their personalities and who they are,” she says. “They are spectacular people to work for. We call them Mom and Dad. They nurture us and get us going in the direction we need to be going. Their personalities are all over this, and they put their heart and soul into everything.”
“I feel like we have a lot of say in how things go because management listens,” says Brennan. “I feel like I am respected by them.”
Aromas has received Best of Coastal Virgina coffeeshop recognition many times, along with other awards. It contributes to organizations that reach out for charitable needs.
“It’s usually for a raffle,” Lindsay says. “We’ll also give gift cards or biscotti trays.”
Outside of work, Lindsay enjoys making bread, quilting and knitting. When she has free time, she likes to spend it with her parents in California.
“I’m the youngest old lady I know,” she says with a laugh.
TO THE POINT:
Aromas at City Center
Address: 706 Town Center Dr., Ste. 104, Newport News, VA 23606