Pittsburgh’s Selina Progar Brings Pastry Creativity To Eleven Contemporary Kitchen
Over the past decade, Selina Progar has established herself among the country’s top pastry chefs. Before successful runs as executive pastry chef at Altius, a AAA Four-Diamond Award-winning restaurant, and head pastry chef at the French bakery La Gourmandine, Progar spent several years in Four-Diamond restaurants in Utah and Massachusetts. But Progar, a Pittsburgh, PA native and graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., decided she wanted a new challenge.
With that focus, Selina Progar has joined the Eleven Contemporary Kitchen team in an elegantly rehabilitated warehouse tucked alongside old Pennsylvania rail lines. The restaurant offers a seasonal menu and outstanding wine list. Located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, Eleven pays homage to the city’s history with its industrial backbone and polished interior. Chef Eli Wahl and his team craft their ever-changing menu from the most vibrant seasonal products. Eleven’s offerings can be experienced a la carte, through nightly tasting dinners or more casually at the bar with the Tavern menu. Every dish at Eleven lets the ingredients take center stage, echoing the kitchen’s position in the heart of the building.
“For the past 7 years I have been curating my own menus at two restaurants in Pittsburgh and leading my team to win multiple best dessert awards in the city,” Progar explained. “When I was a child, my father and I baked together every chance we got. I loved seeing people gather around food and even when they were full there was always room for dessert.”
Selina Progar, who grew up in a Slovenian and Polish family, has been baking since she was a little girl. She started out making potica, apple strudel and krof before experimenting with cakes, breads and chocolates in high school. “Then when I was 16, I made my first birthday cake for a friend. Seeing their face light up hit differently. It lighted a fire that turned a fun hobby into a skill I kept wanting to grow. I studied what I could from books, and after the internet took off it made studying so much easier. Continuously expanding on my education. I love testing new techniques, new flavor pairing, and pushing myself to continuously learn methods of baking and pastry,” she said.
Prior to joining the team at the Steel City’s Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, she became one of the nation’s top gluten free chefs. And she found it, in the gluten-free kitchen of Gluten Free Goat Bakery in Pittsburgh. Everything that Progar baked – pastries, cakes, breads – was gluten-free. “I think it’s important that you’re constantly learning, exploring and growing, and I felt that, over the past eight years in fine dining, I learned about as much as I could,” said Progar. “I really wanted to dive deeper into another form of baking. I thought this would be a great opportunity to continue to gain knowledge and learn about another form of baking pastries.”
Her work at Gluten Free Goat Bakery enabled her to accomplish a mission of creating delicious, healthy baked goods for people with Celiac disease and gluten allergies while winning over customers who are not gluten restricted. She has been able to pivot once again with her return to fine dining at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen.
Today’s top chefs rely more than ever on being able to source ingredients to execute their visionary menus. “I was introduced to the Chefs’ Warehouse 7 years ago as a specialty food distributor,” Progar added. “I was excited to flip through the catalog and see all the items that weren’t attainable through other local companies in my area. My rep has always been Harry Lorusso, he has gone above and beyond to connect me to items that make my menus pop with uniqueness. The Chefs’ Warehouse (CW) carry’s such a wide array of products. My signature dessert at Eleven is the Creme Brûlée. Raspberry Creme brûlée, apricot curd, honey tuile and lavender Chantilly. CW has provided the raspberry and apricot purées, the spring honey, dried lavender flowers, cocoa butter, white chocolate, heavy cream, and eggs. Chefs’ Warehouse is my go-to resource when developing my menus!”
Since returning to Southwestern Pennsylvania seven years ago, Progar has enjoyed watching the Pittsburgh food scene explode. “It’s new and fun and exciting, and there are a lot of talented chefs, and I’m happy to be a part of it. We are a new business that is trying to elevate every aspect of the community. We want to collaborate with local chefs and restaurants to provide a one-of-a-kind culinary experience aimed at meeting our customers’ expectations,” said Progar. “We’re trying to create a healthy environment, not just by making healthy baked goods, but by spreading joy for our employees, our customers and people in the community.”
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