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Photo Credit: Peter Pioppo

Michael Laiskonis
LE BERNARDIN
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 554-1515

Recipe »

Interview:
Antoinette Bruno: What is your philosophy on pastry?
Michael Laiskonis: I just want to make people happy. I’m continually learning new ways of doing this using texture to bridge the gap between science and artistry. I think the curiosity comes from my savory side.

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Michael Laiskonis
LE BERNARDIN | New York


Biography

Michael Laiskonis excels in revitalizing classic desserts by experimenting with contrasting textures, temperatures, and unexpected ingredients in a quest for new flavor sensations. When he was young, Laiskonis was always interested in both science and art; contemporary desserts are a blend of both and, to his mind, they also have an architectural appeal.

A native of Michigan, Laiskonis initially trained in visual arts at Wayne State University and, without a formal culinary degree, started baking professionally while a college student working in a friend’s bakery. While there, he logged 16 hours a day turning out all their breads, cakes, pastries and savories. He moved on to serve as Pastry Chef and Sous Chef under Rick Halberg at Emily’s in Northville, Michigan, before going to work at the critically acclaimed Tribute in 1997. At Tribute he started as a line cook before assuming the role of Pastry Chef, a position he held for five years until coming to Le Bernardin in 2004. Laiskonis’ training and work experience – divided between the pastry and savory realms – is a primary influence in his culinary approach.

Now in New York at Le Bernardin, 33-year-old Laiskonis has found an ideal venue where he can express his interests in the arts, architecture and science through the alchemy of his innovative dessert-making. Executive Chef and Co-Owner Eric Ripert says of his Executive Pastry Chef, “Michael’s sensibilities perfectly complement the Le Bernardin style of light, inventive, elegant food.”

In addition to being named a Rising Star by StarChefs.com, Laiskonis is the recipient of Bon Appétit magazine’s 2004 American Food & Entertaining Award and was twice named one of the “10 Best Pastry Chefs in America” (2002, 2003) by Pastry Art and Design. In 2005, he contributed to Le Bernardin’s four-star review by Frank Bruni in The New York Times.

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Interview Cont'd
AB: Do you recommend culinary training to young cooks?
ML: Absolutely! I couldn’t afford it unfortunately, and I’m very jealous of people who are able to go to culinary school.

AB: Which of the restaurants you’ve worked in as a pastry chef have been the most influential?
ML: Emily’s was the first formative experience for me, a very low-tech, single oven kitchen with only three feet of counter space. But it was at Tribute’s amazing culinary la-la land that I really found my voice.

AB: What pastry tool can’t you live without?
ML: I love my egg topper, which I use to remove the tops of eggs in one clean cut. When I first bought it, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with it. But I was inspired by Alain Passard’s famous egg dish at Arpege and loved the contrast between the warm yolk and the cold crème. I knew then that I wanted to use my egg topper for my crème brulees.

AB: What are your top three tips for dessert success?
ML:

    1. Taste as much as possible.
    2. Be inquisitive and always experiment
    3. Learn how to work well with other people so you can be a good manager

AB: Who is your pastry hero?
ML: Pierre Herme really led the current generation of haute patissiers. But the underexposed Philippe Conticini is another of my heroes and has published some excellent, inspiring pastry books.

AB: What are your favorite desserts?
ML: I really enjoy eating a classic combination of fruit and chocolate. Sometimes the simplest desserts can be the most comforting. For example, at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, I had a bowl of unpeeled tangerines and dates that was just perfect. I do enjoy more complex desserts every now and then, but usually I tend to go for the simpler ones..

AB: What trends do you see emerging in the pastry arts?
ML: I think there will be a continued emphasis on ingredients, with pastry chefs becoming more of a part of the green market movement. I am interested to see how, further down the line, this will translate to fine dining.

AB: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? And in 10 years?
ML: My original goal was to get to New York. I had no idea I’d enter at the top, but here I am! I am interested in working in retail pastry, or perhaps opening a dessert only restaurant. Lately, I’ve also been thinking about trying my hand at teaching.

 

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  • New York Rising Stars Why They Shine


  •    Published: September 2006

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