2015 New York Rising Star Hotel Pastry Chef Erin Kanagy-Loux of Reynard at Wythe Hotel

2015 New York Rising Star Hotel Pastry Chef Erin Kanagy-Loux of Reynard at Wythe Hotel
February 2015

Erin Kanagy-Loux considers herself independent and headstrong, the very stuff of which bakers are made. Growing up in the suburbs of Japan, Philadelphia, and Oregon, Kanagy-Loux’s childhood was a culinary hopscotch. She learned to love texture and technique at home, in everything from her grandmother’s baking to her father’s cooking, which was rooted in Pennsylvania Dutch traditions. 

That initial exposure to food stayed with Kanagy-Loux as she finished high school (early) and pursued a degree. So strong was Kanagy-Loux’s love of food that her side work in cafés, bakeries, and restaurants tugged at her, distracting her from her academic studies. Kanagy-Loux, realizing her passion was in the kitchen, enrolled at Western Culinary Institute and earned “Grand Toque” of her class.

Kanagy-Loux went on to work at Western Culinary for more than three years, teaching introductory baking classes, on up to wedding cakes and show pieces. She didn’t have a sweet tooth growing up, but ultimately found her place on the dessert side of cuisine. Kanagy-Loux continued teaching in the baking and pastry department of the California Culinary Academy and later the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) before she felt the need to jump from the teaching kitchen to the professional one. She joined the opening team at Reynard at the Wythe Hotel, forging her independent style and eclectic journey with a solid, as in rock strong, foundation in cooking.

Interview with New York Rising Star Hotel Pastry Chef Erin Kanagy-Loux of Reynard at Wythe Hotel

Mary Choi: How did you get your start?
Erin Kanagy-Loux
: Growing up, I always cooked with my dad and grandmother. When I was in the sixth grade, we were asked to do an internship in order to figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up. My uncle was a pastry chef and as I was a vegetarian at the time—even vegan for a while—I was already cooking all my own food. I chose the Excelsior Inn in Eugene, Oregon, to intern with their pastry chef. I was there for six weeks and ended up cooking and baking there throughout college and while growing up. Cooking was always just a job to me and not a career. It was always something I did to support myself while attending college. Then I had the opportunity to open Top Pot Doughnuts when I was 19. I helped develop the recipes and then attended Western Culinary School in Portland, Oregon. 

MC: Who's your mentor?
Peter Edris, he was the dean at Western Culinary School in Portland, Oregon and is now the head baker at Aureole. 

MC: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
We host a lot of events here and support local farms. We’re trying to build up a dairy company called Cowbella. We love their organic butter, so we support them to produce and supply it, but it’s not nearly enough. We want to help them grow, so they can supply us with our high demands.

MC: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
I originally never wanted to work in a hotel. I didn’t want to do room service or banquets where I would have to compromise on the food for quantity. But I went for it. Wythe Hotel is a growing business. It faces all the challenges a new business faces. We learn by trial and error with management and execution. Since opening three years ago, I’ve been constantly working on my management skills and balancing motherhood—l learning how to prioritize and solve problems. 

MC: How have you been dealing with being a mother and working in the industry?
It’s been very challenging and hard to balance. I worked throughout my entire pregnancy. I worked double shifts up until three days before my due date at the California Culinary Academy. I took off four months, but then I had to go back to work. Childcare is very expensive, especially since I moved to New York. So I try to network and seek out other mothers in the industry—talking to them about what to do when your kid gets sick and afterschool programs. It’s also been very rewarding. I love showing my kid that I love what I do, being a role model for him to work hard and loving your work. 

MC: If you weren’t a pastry chef, what would you be?
A structural engineer, since I love science and math. Maybe a bridge builder—I love learning about making things more efficient.

MC: Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would love to open a bar with good food and drinks, but that’s probably more of a retirement plan. I’m a big advocate of going where the wind takes you. I love working here, facing daily challenges, working around not using any chemicals or stabilizers. I love the challenge of working with local, fresh ingredients and manipulating them to work in a way that it would with stabilizers, but naturally. I’ve learned a lot here, the catering and wedding cakes, doing everything. I may have another kid, so I would like to get this place stable and running smoothly. It’s been super fun for me because I get to work with every aspect of pastry that I love, not just service baked goods or whatever. I get bored easily, so I like doing all different things.