Counter Culture


Counter Culture Season 5 Ep: 9

Join host Grover Silcox and guests Marqessa Gesualdi, Pastry Chef/Owner of Aux Petits Delices; Mary Mitchell, Author of "Ms. Demeanor"; Keith Purnell, Comedian.

AIRED: April 06, 2021 | 0:28:00

Welcome to Counter Culture,

a talk show normally in a diner.

- Your body temperature is normal.

- Tonight, I welcome pastry chef

and owner of Aux Petits Delices, Marqessa Gesualdi.

- We are really well known for our croissant.

I would stake my reputation on it.

We have the best croissant on the East Coast, easily.

- The matriarch of manners is sometimes referred

to as Ms Demeanor - author Mary Mitchell.

- It's not about dos and don'ts.

It's more about making the most of who they are, helping them

tell their story.

- And the very funny comic Keith Purnell.

- When I'm on stage

and I'm laughing it's because

I'm literally having fun, you know? I'm having a party

and you're invited.

- All right here on Counter Culture.


Hi, folks, I'm your host, Grover Silcox, coming

to you from Lehigh Valley Public Media's Studio B

while we wait for the go ahead to return to our original home

at Daddypops diner in little old Hatboro.

- Going in the oven.

- My first guest learned the craft

and the sweet art and science of creating exquisite

pastry working in Philadelphia's finest

restaurants. In 2017,

she opened her own shop in the tradition of a classic French

patisserie in Wayne, Pennsylvania,

and calls it Aux Petits Delices,

or small delights.

It's a delight to welcome Marqessa Gesualdi

to Counter Culture. How are you?

- I'm doing well. And how are you?

Good. I'm getting hungry

just thinking about some of the pastry you make.

What is your most popular item?

- It is the delice pastry.

It's a chocolate mousse with a hazelnut crunch

and an almond-hazelnut sponge.

If you love Nutella, that's the pastry for you.

It's fabulous pastry.

We are really well known for our croissant.

I spent some time at the French pastry school back in 2016,

I did their two-month bread program

and I really took a liking to making laminated pastry.

I would stake my reputation on it.

We have the best croissant on the East Coast, easily,

and probably the best croissant

that you'll find outside of Paris.

One of the beautiful things about the French pastry is

it's not as sweet or as rich

as like American pastries would be.

So a lot of our products are really kind of like light,

but still decadent.

There's a lot of work that goes into the details of it,

making sure that the croissant

has the right amount of lamination and it's proved

properly, or making sure that the sponge cakes are mixed

and baked properly.

So there's a lot of finesse and a lot of art and technique

that goes into it.

One of the things that has been a sleeper hit

is we have a white chocolate-cinnamon croissant,

a croissanto with a white chocolate bar in the center.

Imagine if a cinnamon bun and a croissant had a baby,

and that's what you would get if you bit into that croissant.

It's so good.

- Oh, wow, it's appealing to my parental instincts.

You know, the problem is that I'm on a kitchen set,

but it's a kitchen without your pastries.

- Right.

You got started very early, didn't you?

You were from Bristol, PA.

- Started at the age of 14.

The long and short story is

the same time that I started attending

a technical high school

my dad lost his job with US Steel out in Fairless Hills.

That was when they started shipping the jobs overseas back

in the early 2000s.

Because he was two years shy of his pension,

the state offered to pay for him to be retrained.

He'd always wanted to go to culinary school.

He had two apprenticeships.

One was at a restaurant on 12th and Locust.

So back in 2003, when my dad was apprenticing there, he went

up to the chef, Fritz Blanc, and was like,

"Hey, Chef, my daughter's really interested

"in being a pastry chef.

"Do you think maybe she could

"come spend a day in the kitchen?"

And one day in the kitchen turned into a year and a half

of every Saturday going in and just spending the day working

in a classical French restaurant.

- And then you went on from there to work for some of the

best restaurants in Philadelphia.

- After graduating high school,

I went to Bucks County Community College

and did a three-year apprenticeship

at a bakery in Newtown.

It was called Annie B's Confections.

And then after that

I helped open up Parks Casino in Bensalem.

I stayed there for two years as the pastry chef.

In 2010, a chef by the name of Kevin Sbraga

had won season seven of Top Chef.

It was the summer of 2011.

He was getting ready to open up his first restaurant.

I applied for the pastry cook position.

I got the job and I spent five and a half years with Kevin.

- Wow.

- Were you on the Food Network as well?

- I competed on season five

of the Spring Baking Championship.

I'm making a carrot cake with pecans, raisins

and a pineapple-rum cream cheese filling.

The show aired in the spring of 2019.

It's easily like the most stressful ten days of my life.

We were filming on our feet from seven o'clock

in the morning until 11 o'clock at night,

just ten days in a row. So really stressful.

But I met some really incredible competitors

and the cast and the crew was fantastic.

So it was a really excellent experience, something

I would love to do again.

I just have to find the time to spend away from the bakery

just because it was so hard to manage.

It was so hard for the shop to be open and for me to not

be there and kind of like have my hands on the ball.

- I can imagine.

- If we do it again,

you know, I'll probably just close the shop for two weeks

or however long we're away for filming.

But we just have to find that right time of year

to do that to make that happen.

- Were the judges frank about their feelings

of the various recipes?

- Yeah, they were.

They were always

straightforward and transparent.

That was one of the things that I really appreciated

about those kinds of Food Network shows,

as opposed to like you see more like the Gordon Ramsay

or the MasterChef kind of, where they're more assertive.

So it was a really excellent time.

- And then you were voted best of Philly by

Philadelphia Magazine, I think, too, right?

- Yeah. I had always been a part of restaurants

that had received those accolades

and it was cool to be a part of those teams.

But to, like, really win it on my own for myself was like one

of the peaks of my career.

So it was absolutely a great honor to receive.

- Now, why did you choose the motif of a French bake shop

or a French pastry shop?

- So the beautiful thing about Aux Petits Delices was,

is that it was an existing business.

It was here for 31 years.

As soon as I walked into the bakery, I just fell in love.

It's a classical French patisserie,

like something you would find right in the heart of France.

I have a huge love for classical French pastry.

I just love the classics.

They're so unique

and interesting and approachable and simple

and it just felt like a perfect fit.

- Have you ever been to France?

- No, I haven't been to France yet, but it's on the plan.

It's in the plans to visit someday.

And my husband and I were supposed to go spend

our one-year wedding anniversary in Montreal,

but with Covid and everything we didn't get there.

So it's in the cards in the future.

We just haven't gotten there yet.

- What's your day like? What's your week like?

- Day to day,

it starts, my day starts, at four o'clock in the morning.

I'm up at 4, at the shop by 5:00 and check the croissants,

see if they're proofed and ready to go.

If they're ready to go, we egg-wash them and bake them

off in the oven. See what's on the schedule for orders

for the day and what's coming up.

And then load the showcase

and get the shop ready for...I call it for service

just because I've been in restaurants for so long.

We're open from 9:00 to 5:00.

So it's a nice chunk of time during the day.

And I spend half my time in the front and then the other

remaining time in the back of house

helping customers out and taking cake orders and,

you know, just the normal trappings

of running a patisserie.

- How have things been going with Covid and the pandemic

and quarantining and all that stuff?

- So we have been very lucky.

I'm very thankful for the support from the community,

because without everybody,

even if it's just for a cup of coffee

or a croissant or a pastry,

every single transaction counts.

We're hoping to still continue

to serve those coffees and pastries

and cakes and, you know,

trudge along right through this pandemic

mess and make it out on the other side.

- We know that you're keeping the folks in Wayne

and beyond rich in some of the best pastry this side of Paris.

- We're doing our best.

- And we know that your PhD,

that P stands for pastry.

- It sure does.

- Thank you so much for joining us.

- Thank you for having me.

I do appreciate the opportunity.

- Absolutely.

Marqessa Gesualdi, a pastry chef who makes little delights

for the biggest occasions.

My next guest became well known for her syndicated column

under the pseudonym Ms Demeanor.

She founded the Mitchell Organization, a firm dedicated

to helping companies and groups of all kinds mind their manners

and improve the relationships.

She has authored magazine articles and books

on good manners and etiquette, including

The Idiot's Guide to Etiquette

and Class Acts.

She is a sought-after speaker, and it is a pleasure

to welcome my old friend,

the very civil and always respectful

and highly delightful Mary Mitchell!

President of the Mitchell Organization.

- Well, Grover, thank you.

It's great to see you.

It was so much fun to be flattered by your invitation.

I forgot how much fun flattery can be.

- Well, I always enjoy it,

so I figured, you know, other people might as well.

- Let me tell you,

there are there are a couple of reasons why it's so special

to be here today. Want to know what they are?

- Yes!

- OK.

Reason number one is that I have not worn lipstick

in months - first time in months. Thank you.

- OK.

- Reason number two.

I've never been on television wearing pajama bottoms before.

- You and me both, actually.

How about that?

That's the beauty of Zoom.

- Life is good.

- That's the beauty of virtual reality.

I just finished your book, Class Acts.

- Oh, thank you.

- It was very good.

So is there a difference between,

and I think you do point this out in Class Acts,

a difference between manners and etiquette?

- Oh, yes, it's a tremendous difference.

Manners are all about kindness

and good manners come from inside.

I mean, you can kind of tell just when you encounter

somebody, even on the street with a mask on.

- Yeah.

- If they nod at you and kind of make eye contact,

that's really good manners.

Etiquette is...

Etiquette comes from the outside,

and that's just's about rules.

It's about ways to eliminate chaos

and create some kind of order.

And etiquette changes all the time.

The economy changes it. Good heavens, Covid changed it.

Some people use etiquette as a defensive art to kind

of keep people away.

"I'll be so polite to you that

"I will make sure I keep you at a distance."

- Right, yeah!

For years, you had your syndicated column

Ms Demeanor.

And what was like the most frequent thing people

would ask you? Because people would ask you for advice.

- It's interesting you ask me that

because the question that kept coming up so much

had to do with table manners.

I think when people think etiquette,

they immediately think knife and fork.

- Right.

- And actually, if you think about it,

now that we're in sort of, you know, lockdown, quarantine,

it's a good time to practice good table manners.

It's a good time for families if they want to, you know,

to kind of join and think about it.

The reason that so many people wrote me about that had to do

with how people judge others

on the basis of their table manners.

- Right.

- But they won't...

It's such a sensitive subject.

Nobody will tell you

"I don't want you in my club because you eat like a pig."

- Right. Oof!

So now the Mitchell Organization

is devoted to helping companies,

corporations, organizations with etiquette and manners

within the company and relationships with other people

outside the company, I guess.

- You know, Grover, over the last several years,

I've been working almost exclusively with scientists.

- Really?

- Yeah.

I think what's happening,

or certainly what has happened pre-Covid,

has been that you have so many individuals coming from so many

different cultures here wanting to have jobs in industry.

So they have to transition from a laboratory

into corporate life.

And so I give them self-confidence. And, you know,

tell you the truth, I started doing this, or what gave me

the brainstorm to teach this stuff

or to get really interested in it,

was that I had lived on several other continents

and I knew how it felt,

to feel completely terrified.

I was going to get deported for making some mistake.

- Right.

- So it's not about dos and don'ts.

It's not about, "Don't you do that!"

It's more about making the most of who they are,

helping them tell their story.

And helping... You know, we're really only as strong

as our weakest relationship.

- Do people sometimes ask you, like, "Boy,

"I get a little nervous when the boss wants to go to lunch"?

- What's interesting to me is that

the more questions are about,

"Oh, what do I talk about with this person?"

- Part of being mannerly is kind of knowing, understanding

the other person.

Giving, being generous enough to try to understand

where that person is coming from.

- You used the perfect word, Grover - generosity.

And I think that's coming into play now

with Covid more than any other time.

In Class Acts, your book, which was written a few years ago,

definitely before the pandemic,

you spoke about how you felt that manners

were starting to fragment.

People were starting to become less mannerly.

- Prior to the pandemic,

there was so much emphasis

on external values and material things.

And the world was so competitive

that I think that Covid has made us

a bit more tolerant.

And some of the ways that we can just make our world

a little nicer is,

you know, make eye contact with somebody.

So you're wearing a mask.

OK, but you can... You know this, you're a performer.

You can see a smile in somebody's eyes.


- One of the things that...

I was in Trader Joe's,

and I usually look at the name tag on the checkout person.

- Right.

- And I said, when we were done, I said, "Thanks, Gloria."

And she looked at me, she said, "Nobody's ever looked

"at my name before.".

- Wow.

- You know, it's such a small thing,

but it makes a difference.

- So I guess manners and being polite, politeness,

are kind of synonymous.

- Pretty much, yeah. It's all about being kind.

- You could say the same thing one way

and the same words another way,

and it has a whole different message.

- Well, yeah. I can say, "I love you."

Or I can say, "I love you."

Same words.

- Right. Wow.

- And one is taken as real sarcasm.

And the other is sincere.

- Well, Mary.

I love the fact that you've joined me

on Counter Culture.

- Why, thank you.

- Is this telling you I'm sincere?!

Because I am.

- I know you are.

You've always been authentic, Grover.

Your nose grows when you lie.

- Well, you're going to have to teach me how to accept praise.

No, really...

- Got it. What you do is, you smile, you say

thank you and you shut up - you don't argue the point.

- Well, thank you.

- You're welcome.

- Mary Mitchell, the master of manners when they matter most.

- I've been looking for a new computer,

I got an old computer.

I got Windows 72. That's how old my computer is.

I don't even got Windows. I got shades and shutters.

It's awful, man.

- My next guest started his comedy career

in and around Philadelphia. I know because I was there.

And I can tell you firsthand, he's hilarious.

Like all the great comics,

he tell stories, riffs on real life and pokes fun

at the human condition.

Please welcome one of my old pals from the stand-up world,

Keith Purnell.

Keith, are you at a comedy club right now?

- I really wish I was at a comedy club, right now.

Yes. Got to have the feel of it.

- You do. That's the perfect brick backdrop.

- It took a while to find this one, took a while to find

this one, but it makes me feel at home.

- You grew up in Delaware. Is that your native state?

Yes, yes, yes.

I grew up in Delaware. Actually,

I was really shy, kind of shy as a kid.

I didn't go to my prom or anything like that.

I was really, you know, you know...

- It's funny you should say that because a lot of people

think, oh, he's a comedian

or she's a comedian, she must be really outgoing,

you know, the life of the party.

But actually, if you know comedians, they're really

kind of introspective.

They're really looking at the world all the time, looking

for the absurdities.

Yeah, we watch.

We watch everything.

Something funny happens. I go, "OK, I can..."

You know, not everything can go into your act.

But you make that fit you -

you go, "Hm, OK, I'll remember that."

And then you just jot it down and you go from there.

- When things go wrong,

that's actually good for a comedian in some ways because

that's material, right?

- Yup. Lots of it, man.

I mean, the whole pandemic thing is,

you know, during a lockdown,

everyone's like, "Everything's closed.

"What are you going to do?"

Then there was these Zoom shows popping up,

which I really didn't like at first,

but then learned to have fun with it.

You know, you just roll with it.

- Right! How's it going?

- I was doing trivia shows and I was actually busier

than I was when the pandemic wasn't on,

so I actually picked up even more.

But it's been fun.

You just have to just, you know,

have fun with the situation

and then roll with it from there.

You know, you can't allow yourself to be locked down.

You know, I have a gift of gab, so you just,

you know, use it.

- Right. Well, that's what I remember about you

maybe the most, is the fact

you could roll with the punches.

- People don't realize how,

like...I want to say nerve-racking.

I mean, I've been doing this for years,

and you still don't want to make a mistake.

You're not worried about being nervous or, you know,

you're just worried about, you know, flubbing your lines

or something like that and just

worrying about making a mistake.

And a mistake,

you know, we can't have a bad day at work.

- You know, you've always, always deejayed as well.

That's kind of like your your other track.

And in that, you can hide behind the music, right?

- Yeah.

Yeah, I've been doing it since I was 12.

- Wow!

A good release.

And you know, I enjoy doing it.

I got into comedy later.

So now they kind of, you know, balance each other out.

I'd rather be telling jokes.

And then, you know, I produce a lot of shows where we do

the comedy show and then I deejay afterwards.

So I get to have fun both ways.

- That's good.

- And make a little bit of money.

- It helps. I know you talk about

performing at the Milton Theater down in Delaware,

which is a beautiful theater.

- Yes, it's awesome.

I feel honored and privileged to be a part of the growth

of that theater because

they reached out to me about doing some shows.

And we had a little corner of the theater

where we had like maybe 20 or 30 chairs.

They were folding chairs,

they were futons, they were lounge chairs.

Anything you can imagine just to seat people there.

And, you know, I didn't realize it, but I just thought

it was just a comedy night for somebody to do there.

But it was raising money

for, you know, seating for the theater, for lights.

- Right. It's not cheap.

- For all kinds of things the needed..

I mean, we're going on a good seven years now

and it's gotten really big, they had national acts there.

And I still book comedy shows there every month.

And it's just awesome. It's an awesome experience.

You know, sometimes I don't even make any money,

it's just being a part of it, to help it grow.

- I heard this story you told.

I think you were on a podcast, you were going to open for one

of your comedy idols, DL Hughley.

- So I'm all excited.

This was at the Grand Opera House...

- In Wilmington, which is another beautiful theater.

- Yes. Two days before, a few days

before, something like that,

I get a phone call and they go...

And the guy was real smooth.

"Uh, the act, uh, doesn't want an opener."

And I'm like, "The act?"

Like who's the act?!

"Uh, the act doesn't need an opener, so..."

And he never really said, like, you know...

And I went, "Are you talking about D L Hughley?"

"Yes. The act doesn't need you

"to open for him this weekend."

I like, "Oh, OK.

"Can I ask why?"

He goes, "Well, he has another show in New York

"and he just wants to get off,

"he wants the show to start," and he just leaves.

I was kind of mad. It was like,

you know, the most money I was ever going to make in one show.

- Right. You love the guy's act and his...

- Yes.

One of my favorite comedians, actually. The first

comedian I ever seen was Robert Klein.

I just, I didn't know what comedy was.

I just seen a guy on stage talking and I was laughing.

I didn't understand, but I'm laughing. Wow.

And he did that song, "I can't stop my leg".

I thought that was the funniest thing.

If you haven't seen that bit, look up

Robert Klein, I can't stop my leg.

- Wow. Yes.

- That totally impressed me.

And it got me hooked.

And then the next one I seen was George Carlin.

- Wow. Richard Pryor. YEAH.

The way my act is modeled,

it's just a little bit from from everybody -

like some of George Carlin's. He didn't move around too much

but the way he points from one spot, the way his body moves.

- That's right. He used to like pivot.

- Yeah. Richard Pryor's facial expressions,

his facial expressions...

So I'm very animated when I talk -

I get that from Richard Pryor.


And that that's really what anyone who's ever aspired

to comedy, just about everyone I know, including myself,

had those people who kind of got them

interested in it.

- When I'm on stage and I'm laughing,

it's because I'm literally having fun.

You know, I'm having a party and you're invited, you know?


But that's one thing, like, to young comics, you know,

ask for advice.

And the first thing I taught him,

"Dude, do just go up and have fun."

No-one's forcing you to do this.

You know, they're not holding your family hostage and saying,

"Go up and tell jokes or you'll never see them again."

Go up and have fun.

I go up, I have fun. The crowd sees that.

And, you know, it's a great feeling.

- Right.

are you are you using these days?

Do you change as you go along?

Sometimes something happens or you add and delete?

- Yeah, I'm adding.

and it's funny because my act has evolved

as I'm getting older.

I try not to have topical things,

the mainstay of my act.

So there are things I can do no matter what.

- Right.

- We can go ten years from now, whatever,

there's no date to it, you know?

- Yeah, it's the human experience.

- But I turn to certain things, dating and marriage

and just everything, you know, everyday things. That way,

there's no date to it at all.

You know, during this whole Covid thing,

I mean, people didn't want to hear

a whole bunch of Covid jokes.

How about come to the show and just laugh and have fun?

- Yeah, exactly.

Well, that's what they'll do if they come see you, Keith.

That's for sure.

You guarantee that.

- I always hope they laugh. That's what I hope.

- Where can people find you? Where can people find you?

- You know, I'm an older guy, so I got to get up on this

Tweeter? Or Twitter. That's what it is, Twitter.

Up on the Twitter and the Facelog, or...Facebook!

- Right.

- DJK Purnell on Facebook.

My website is That simple.

A couple of things I'm working on,

some YouTube things coming out because everything hasn't

opened up all the way.

Slowly getting back to work now, though.

- That's good.

I know you've been on Sirius Radio and BET and Fox

and a number of different, you know, media.

- And now PBS.

- And now you finally made it.

- The big-time!

- Well, we appreciate it right here on Counter Culture.

Keep people laughing.

We surely, surely need it in this day and age.

Thank you, my friend.

- All right, have a good one.

- You, too.

Keith Purnell, a man who looks at life

and tells you how he sees it, with humor and laughter.

Well, that's all for this episode.

I want to thank all my guests,

pastry chef Marqessa Gesualdi,

author and manners expert Mary Mitchell

and comedian Keith Purnell.

And thank you.

Please check in with us next week for more amazing guests

and great conversation right here at the counter.

Now, next up, stay tuned for More Than Money

with Jeanne Dickerson.


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