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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is There Life after Orson? New Absinthe Pastry Chef Luis Villavelazquez Seeks to Find Out

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Villavelazquez: Ballsy
  • Villavelazquez: Ballsy
It's been a month since up-and-coming pastry whiz Luis Villavelazquez defected from Orson to Absinthe. How's he feeling? Tired. SFoodie checked in with the pastry chef the morning after his graveyard cook called in sick - Villavelazquez had just worked straight through the night, since Absinthe's pastry department is 24/7, knocking out breakfast pastries and sweets for sister cafe Arlequin, besides the more elaborate desserts it produces for the restaurant.

At Orson, Villavelazquez engineered meticulously layered desserts with ballsy juxtapositions that worked (think Nicoise olives in a chocolate ice cream sandwich). How's the pastry chef's style melding with Absinthe's altogether Frenchier, more conservative cuisine? Villavelazquez suggested he's engaged in a gradual remaking. Shipments of flavorings and spices he's ordered are only now arriving: Alsatian pinecone extract, white cheddar powder, violet extract ("lavender has played out," he told us; "violets are going to take its place.") He's already unveiled olive oil cake studded with (take a guess) Nicoise olives, with candied violets, lemon-rhubarb yogurt, and chartreuse. And he's developed a violet crème brulee, served with juniper and cassis sauces and (once they come into season) fresh blackberries.

So why did the 24-year-old rising star leave Orson? "I started at Citizen Cake almost five years ago," he told SFoodie, "and after three and a half years I was asked to open Orson. Being as young as I am, I have to see if I'm as good as people say." It's an attitude that may be ballsier than any flavor combination Villavelazquez could possibly come up with.

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