AGAINST THE GRAIN
Former Grace pastry chef Bobby Schaffer sets up shop in Andersonville with his storefront bakery, Lost Larson.
Bobby Schaffer is used to taking big leaps; two years into a business degree, he dropped out and enrolled in culinary school at Kendall College. Smart move. Eventually, Michelin-starred Grace tapped Schaffer to create its pastry program. After its untimely end, Schaffer ventured to New York to help establish a bread program at world-renowned Blue Hill at Stone Farms. Now, the kid from suburban Western Springs is striking out on his own with Lost Larson, a storefront bakery in Andersonville, and here, he chats about his plans with CS.
How do you translate skills from a Michelin-starred restaurant to a neighborhood bakery? First and foremost, I want to use the best ingredients I can, which is the same thing for fine dining. It’s using good butter, it’s using good flour; going to farmers markets and getting produce. Trying to be a little different and offer flavors that are outside the norm. Our chocolate croissant, for example, has cardamom in it.
How do you get bread onto carb- and gluten-averse diners’ plates? I had someone recently ask me, ‘You don’t eat your bread, do you?’ commenting on how skinny I am. Actually, I eat half a loaf every day and a generous amount of butter. It’s about the type of bread you eat. Lost Larson’s breads all have whole grain in them, so it’s bread you feel good about after you eat.
How did you adjust to country living at Blue Hill? They had a forager on staff, so we would go out and tap maple trees, get birch bark, dig up sassafras root. I would make root beer because there was wintergreen on the property. I mean, that’s incredible.
Chicagoans love their steak and hot dogs. But is this a pastry town? I feel like Chicago hasn’t had the amount of great bakeries that it deserves. If you look at New York or San Francisco, they have so many options of really great places, and in Chicago, there have only been a handful. Maybe it’s because it is a meat-and-potatoes town. But I think there’s always been a strong talent pool in the city, and it’s exciting to see some start to branch out, like Dana Cree, [formerly] of The Publican and Aya Fukai [former pastry chef at the Elysian hotel].
Where does a pastry chef go to eat? Lula Cafe with friends. We get every dessert on the menu. 5318 N. Clark St., 773.944.0587, lostlarson.com –Patty Wetli