On the Line: Chef Luci Levere
Current Location: Elm Street Bakery, East Aurora
Current Title: Executive Chef
How many years behind the stove: Twenty-three
Though her resume chronicles only twenty-three years of experience, Levere claims she was born with a spatula in her hand. Entirely self-taught, the young chef earned her first shot as an executive pastry chef at the age of twenty-three. With a career marked by many accomplishments, including employment in the New York kitchens of celebrity chefs Rocco DiSpirito and Geoffrey Zakarian, Levere has won hearts with the pastries she crafts for East Aurora’s sensational eatery, Elm Street Bakery.
Sitting just a block off Main Street, ESB is an immersive experience that is so lifestyle oriented it could sprout its own clothing line. Here, in the cathedral-ceilinged, concrete-floored haven, warm sunlight streams through the windows and highlights the golden brown edges of the pastries that fill the counter and the loaves that line the wall on the shelves behind it. This is where Levere’s handiwork is best admired, perfectly staged, as if it might soon grace the cover of your favorite food magazine. Risers and plates are piled with soft warm Madelines, butter tarts filled with apricot preserves, decadent cinnamon buns, croissants, and crave-worthy cookies. But they won’t last long, as the line of eager customers seeking warm sweets and deep house-roasted coffee is never short.
If you weren’t a pastry chef, what would you do?
I love design, whether it’s inside the home or in the garden.
What makes a good pastry chef?
Deep passion for your craft, creativity, good time management and the ability to multitask, refined fine motor skills, speed, accuracy, knowing what something looks like when it’s done as opposed to the clock, and a love for eating pastry.
Favorite classic dish:
Soufflé. It’s really so easy and it’s a blank canvas. Chocolate is my favorite, Valrhona when possible.
Is there a kitchen chore you particularly dislike?
I don’t like to clean the oven; I’m just not that good at it.
Trend you’d like to explore:
I love the marriage of sweet and savory; finding that balance between the two is exciting. So many cultures do it instinctively but it’s new to Americans. I love the use of less sugar, and more salt to balance things out.
Restaurant you’re dying to try:
Tartine in San Francisco. I also want to eat every single pastry at Pierre Herme.
Your go-to food reference cookbook:
Lenotre’s Pastry. It’s what all of today’s pastries are based on.
Best music to bake by:
I love Maroon 5. Go ahead, have your laugh.
Food no chef should love, but you do anyway:
Raspberry Jell Rings. I was born right next to the Broadway Market and used to walk there with my family. It’s a very nostalgic taste for me.
What Buffalo’s food scene really needs:
Really good dim sum service. Authentic Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.
Christa Glennie Seychew is the food editor of Buffalo Spree.