2016 San Francisco Rising Star Pastry Chef Maya Erickson of Lazy Bear

2016 San Francisco Rising Star Pastry Chef Maya Erickson of Lazy Bear
May 2016

At just 13, Maya Erickson entered the world of pastry through the Nueva School apprentice program. She decided on Destino Restaurant because the chef, who she met through her mother’s dance studio, would teach her some Japanese techniques. Originally, Erickson wanted to apprentice as a hairstylist, but her mother—a passionate cook with a side business of baking cakes—intervened. Instead, Erickson spent the school year making tuiles and other classic confections. After a year at Destino, Erickson attended Lowell High School, where she and a friend established a home catering service. While catering, Erickson was introduced to her mentor-to-be, Elizabeth Falkner, who invited Erickson to stage at Citizen Cake. Soon thereafter, two of Falkner’s staff left suddenly, and Erickson was hired.

By the time she graduated high school, Erickson was contributing to the menu at Falkner’s new restaurant, Orson. After helping Falkner present on the Main Stage at StarChefs International Chefs Congress in 2012, Erickson worked as opening pastry chef for Rising Stars alum Mark Liberman at AQ. Intending to travel, she left AQ but instead found herself baking for a cafe attached to her mother’s studio. By chance, while out picking up bread, she passed Chef David Barzelay—who, after making a sharp u-turn, caught up to her and recruited her for his new restaurant, Lazy Bear. At Lazy Bear, Erickson has brought accolades both to herself and the restaurant. She was named 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Rising Star and helped the restaurant earn its first Michelin star in 2016.

Interview with San Francisco Rising Star Maya Erickson of Lazy Bear

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start? 
Maya Erikson:
In the eighth grade I got to apprentice as a class project. I really wanted to do hair styling, but my mom said no. So then, I was going to do Japanese cooking, and it turned out one of the dancers at my mother's studio new a pastry chef who was Japanese. I worked in his kitchen for about a year.

Then a friend of mine and I started an at-home catering-service. We catered for a board member of ODC Dance School, who happened to know Elizabeth Faulkner. She invited me to work at Citizen Cake for free while I was still in high school. Then the pastry chef and assistant left at the same time, so they were forced to hire me! When citizen cake closed, I went to Orson. 

I started working at AQ in 20...12. It was a huge learning experience. It was my first time working as part of an opening team. I learned to work cleaner and how to order things, and the basics that I didnt necessarily pick up because Citizen Cake and Orson were chaotic. I learned how to bullshit and pretended I knew what I didnt, like how to make monkey bread. I learned how to figure things out. I also helped the Mercer Group open a coffee shop. I was walking down the street one day carrying some bread, and David [Barzelay] saw me and made a u-turn in his car. That's how I came to work here. 

SK: Who do you consider a mentor?
Elizabeth Falkner. She's not afraid of doing whatever you she wants, whether she fails or not. She inspires me to always stay true to myself and my work. Tastes change and I don't want to be trendy, I want to make the food I want to make, regardless of what's in vogue. She taught me that when I was very young. 

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
 It's crazy to me that I have become somebody that industry people know. It's been fun! I did Portland Chef Week. It was my first time doing something that that. I think it's great to work with people from all over the West Coast. 

SK: What is the biggest challenge of working at Lazy Bear?
The style of service is hard to get used, and it's challenging to over come still: 40 people, all at once, every night. I couldn’t do a soufflĂ© or something like that; the first and last plate [for a dish] have to go out the same time. It's hard with ice cream; we use liquid nitro. 

SK: What is your five year plan?
Japan. Doing what? I'm not sure. Elizabeth [Falkner] taught me an avante-garde style that has become the norm now. I want to learn an ancient style of food, doing something with just a mortar and pestle and a sieve. I want to learn styles like that and bring them back here, an amalgamation of modern and tradtional.