Rising Star Pastry Chef Leigh Omilinsky of Nico Osteria - Biography

Chicago, IL

May 2018

Watching “Jacques and Julia” first inspired a young Leigh Omilinsky to pick up a whisk, and throughout high school in Skokie, Illinois, she worked part-time in bakeries. After graduating, she headed west to study pastry at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, and her first professional gig was at the Denver JW Marriott.
Omilinsky soon returned to Chicago to work with Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand—first at Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood as the lead pastry cook and then at TRU as pastry tournant. Omilinsky dug her fine-dining clogs in further when she went to work for Laurent Gras as chef de partie at L20, during which time the restaurant received three Michelin stars. 

In 2010, Omilinsky joined Sofitel Chicago Water Tower as assistant pastry chef and was promoted to executive pastry chef in 2012. For her work there, Omilinksy was named to Zagat’s “30 under 30” list. She won the Jean Banchet award for “Rising Star Pastry Chef” the same year and “Pastry Chef of the Year” in 2013. To further her skills, Omilinksy spent a formative month staging at Pierre Hermé in Paris. Now at Nico Osteria at the Thompson Hotel, Omilinsky’s pastry program— from hotel amenities to plated desserts—reflects her deep affection for Italian cuisine. She also has become a pillar of the Chicago pastry community, rallying around causes and her pastry peers and setting an example for pastry chefs who want to make an impact far beyond the plate.