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Luci Levere: Pastry Chef

(photo by Henry Leutwyler)

Get to know a Buffalonian...

Luci Levere: Pastry Chef

After working for 10 years in the ultra- competitive Manhattan culinary scene, Levere returned to Buffalo where she’s currently the head pastry chef at Delish (802 Elmwood Ave.), creating cakes and cookie delights that have helped to land Delish a spot on Artvoice’s Best Desserts list several years in a row.

When did you know you wanted to be a pastry chef and what did it take to get to that level?

I pretty much knew I always wanted to be a pastry chef but went to college for various other majors. It wasn’t until my last year at college that I couldn’t deny my passion any longer and pursued my dream of cooking for a living. I think that whole time I never realized I could make a living out of what I did for pleasure.

What is your signature dish?

Chocolate Souffle with an interesting ice cream. Souffles are unbelievable easy to pull off and always impressive.

How often do you have the opportunity to experiment with new creations in the kitchen?

Experimentation is a daily part of my work, both at Delish and at home. I am always thinking about new creations, new flavor profiles, new ingredients. The pastry engines are always turning in my head. I love taking inspiration from old dishes and making them modern. We just recently renovated our kitchen at home so I do a lot of my experimenting there. There is no stopping me with a shiny new double oven and six burner cook top.

Any recent successes you’d like to brag about or failures you’ll own up to?

I’ve mastered the french macaroon! There is always the risk of failure, especially if trying a recipe for the first time. Just because they are published in a cookbook doesn’t mean they will work. Fleur de sel caramels were a recent flop...nothing remotely close to edible.

Baking being a fickle science at best, what’s the best advice you can give to an aspiring dessert artisan?

Practice, practice, practice. Consume as many food publications and cookbooks you can get your hands on. Eat out often. Use the best ingredients possible. Learn how to trust your instincts...just because the recipe says it will be done in 12 minutes doesn’t mean it can’t take less. It’s done when it is done. Work with a gentle hand.

bonus: What is your biggest junk-food guilty pleasure?

Kettle Brand Krinkle cut Salt and pepper potato chips. Party Size.

bonus: How does Buffalo’s sweet tooth compare or contrast to your previous clientele in Manhattan?

Buffalo likes things super sized, they want value. Most restaurants I worked for in New York City asked me to make things smaller.

bonus: How’s your cholesterol level? Are you ever concerned about the danger of being around such lavish treats all day?

I have no idea what my cholesterol level is! I know, shame shame. If chocolate is dangerous, then guilty as charged. But I am a fit 37 year old mother of two and keep my weight below 130lbs. I eat anything I want most of the year but right after the holidays I go on a “cleanse” to lose any puff I may have put on. One of the most commonly asked questions people ask me is how I stay so thin. I don’t eat large portions of food which allows me to indulge when I want to. Most pastries I make at home are either given away or go in the freezer. I bake for the pure pleasure and satisfaction of the process.

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