CHEF LEVI RICHARD
As with most chefs, Levi Richard’s love of food came from cooking with his parents and grandparents. The rich tradition of cooking and sharing memories with food was very influential. Pastry Chef Levi Richard started his professional career at the California School of Culinary Arts. His career has taken him from California to New Orleans, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Miami, at every step, learning how to meld the traditions and flavors of the regions with his own heritage. His goal is to always offer a beautiful and sophisticated dessert that is still approachable and familiar in flavor.
Most notably he was the pastry chef for The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, and The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami.
In 2018 He moved back to his home state of California to become the executive pastry chef for the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California. Overseeing pastry for all the outlets within the casino allows him to showcase a wide variety of talent and skills.
Valrhona: What inspired you to enter the world of pastry?
Levi Richard: I grew up in a family of cooks. I have so many early memories of cooking and baking with my grandmothers and working a BBQ with my mom and grandpa.
Valrhona: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
Levi Richard: I use Instagram a lot. I think it's one of the best tools for pastry chefs right now. I follow a few home design companies, fashion houses, and tattoo artists that really inspire me to incorporate that into the food that I do. I’m also very interested in looking at the food that is local to the area I live in. Reading about their history of food and seeing how I can bring that into the food that I’m currently doing.
Valrhona: Who in your life has been the biggest mentor/inspiration in your career?
Levi Richard: So many people. I think every chef and food & beverage director that I have worked for has inspired me to be better or inspired me to realize what or who I don’t want to be. I think now I get so much inspiration from the teams I have. Understanding the food of their culture and seeing how it can be incorporated into what we do.
Valrhona: How is your team responding to the new realities of the world during and eventually post-COVID-19?
Levi Richard: First I would say how much my ears hurt from wearing a face mask all day! As most places, we were closed for a long time. During that time I was really focused on how I can change and improve what we are doing. Am I doing too much or not enough, etc. I was in contact with my team a lot and using social media to get inspired. Besides the face masks, not being able to stand so close to each other the new standards of sanitization around coronavirus - I am moving towards editing and refining what we are doing. Reducing super crazy garnishes/designs and really focusing on more straight forward desserts that may be simpler in design but just as sophisticated.
Valrhona: What are your hopes for the future of the world of food and pastry?
Levi Richard: Now, with coronavirus, many pastry chefs and cooks were the first to be furloughed and many places will not reopen with a pastry department, if they open at all. My hope is that we will have a strong future. Where we can continue to grow and develop pastry cooks into chefs and we can continue to produce our beautiful things. But right now it’s hard. It’s hard seeing my culinary family out of work with no real idea when they can get back. I believe our future depends on what help our industry is able to get from the government. It's happy to bail out other industries, but there hasn’t been enough for us in hospitality. And like most I’m terrified with where that is going to leave us.
Valrhona: What should the role of the food/pastry industry be in the community? The world? The environment?
Levi Richard: Food has always brought us together. So many memories and milestones are associated with food. Restaurants and bakeries are the soul and life of our community. Either it's going back to the same restaurant on your anniversary every year, or it's your grandmother's lemon pie that you have each Easter. I think that has become more apparent since we haven’t been able to be together or share those experiences in a restaurant.
So many places during shelter in place were doing food to go- and offering proceeds to help communities that didn’t have access to food. They stepped up at a time when it was hardest for them and helped out other groups of people. Our industry is becoming a catalyst for social change and people are taking note. I believe that is what our role is becoming. Working to support local and sustainable farms. Then working to support communities with low access to food. That should be our future in the world, our global community, and the environment.
Valrhona: What is your earliest dessert memory?
Levi Richard: I had a birthday when I was really young and my grandmother made me a cake that looked like a clown and had some kind of candies as hair.
Valrhona: If you could pass one bit of insight down to a chef just getting their start, what would it be?
Levi Richard: That the cookies you are making are more important than the chocolate showpiece. If you can’t deliver consistently on the more basic items that people are coming to you for day in and day out, then the showpieces and gingerbread houses and all the other things don’t matter.
Valrhona: What is your favorite perk of the Cercle V program?
Levi Richard: The feve key chain is pretty awesome- not going to lie.
I also love getting access to the new chocolate sooner.
Valrhona: When & how did you hear about Valrhona for the first time? / When & how did your “relationship” with Valrhona start?
Levi Richard: I don’t remember the first time I heard about it. Probably in culinary school. And then during my internship. I remember we only received the full blocks and we had to chop them up for all the recipes.
From my cooks -levicito.
Celsius or Fahrenheit?
Fahrenheit but I also use grams.
Favorite Valrhona Chocolate?
BAHIBÉ or the double fermented banana KIDAVOA.
Hardest question- It's a toss-up between Bells in Los Alamos California and Peasants Fest in Solvang CA.
Favorite flavor pairing with chocolate?
Coffee or Tea?
Favorite Kitchen Tool?
At work- scale
At home – coffee machine
String cheese – I'm eating some right now.
Who do you follow on social media?
Carved coast – They aren’t pastry but the designs they produce are so inspiring.
Favorite type of dessert to make? To eat?
To eat apple pie- to make probably chocolate chip cookies.