Athens native Andrea Litvin brings her pastry expertise to The Spence as she teams up with Top Chef All-Stars winner, Chef Richard Blais. Growing up in Athens, Litvin was very much influenced by her mother who worked for The University of Georgia’s Horticulture Department. Litvin enjoyed learning about how food is grown and how it makes its way into her home. During this time, Litvin planted a garden at their home where she harvested and cooked everything that came through their kitchen, furthering her passion for cooking. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta, Litvin’s first stint in the kitchen was at Chef Richard Blais’ restaurant Home. From there, she worked briefly at Flip Burger Boutique before accepting her first pastry position, under Gary Mennie, as part of the opening team at The Livingston. Here, Litvin was able to build a solid foundation of basic pastry techniques. After a year at The Livingston, Andrea was off to New York where she accepted a position on the opening crew at famed Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen. At Richard Blais’ The Spence, Litvin creates amazingly simple and classic desserts with a twist. She has been featured nationally in Garden & Gun magazine and The Chicago Tribune, to name a few. Tasting Table named her one of the “Best Pastry Chefs of 2013″ and she was a recent nominee for Food & Wine Magazine’s “The People’s Best New Pastry Chef.” Litvin currently lives in Buckhead and spends her free time reading, exercising and going to movies. She is also a proud member of Slow Foods Atlanta.
Congratulations Chef Andrea Litvin on being one of our Pastry Chefs for the Month for October!
1. What is the name of your company and where are you based?
I am the Executive Pastry Chef for The Spence in Atlanta, Georgia.
2. What is your birthplace?
3. What made you decide to become a chef?
When I was younger, my mom worked at the University of Georgia in the horticulture department and from growing and tending to our garden in our backyard, I developed my love for cooking.
4. What do you enjoy doing outside of being a chef?
Reading magazines, trying different fashion, art, museums.
5. What is your favorite social media platform?
6. What is your Must Have Kitchen Tool?
A Scale – I must know exact measurements down to the gram!
7. What is your specialty dish?
Making ice creams that are vegetable based like carrot mint.
8. What’s the strangest thing you ever ate?
Lung – when I was working for Richard Blais and we worked at the Food and Wine Festival in Hong Kong, there was a food festival nearby. There was a street vendor that sold it and it was covered with hot mustard and when I tasted it, it stuck to my teeth. I will never eat it again.
Chef Andrea Litvin’s Lemon Meringue Pie with Aerated White Chocolate Mousse
Lemon Meringue Recipe
150g lemon juice
Cook the lemon juice, butter, and sugar together in a double boiler.
Temper in the eggs and the yolks and cook into thick
Pipe into a prepared mold and bake at 300F until set
Brown Butter Crust
72g brown sugar
300g AP flour
Brown the butter with the oil.
Add in the water and the brown sugar.
Mix in the flour and combine.
Rest in the fridge.
Roll out between parchment paper and bake at 325 until brown
Aerated White Chocolate Mousse
250g white chocolate
150g heavy cream
Whip the yolks and the sugar together until light and fluffy.
Brown the white chocolate in the oven.
Combine the white chocolate and the butter together in a blender.
Drizzle into the sugar, yolk mixture.
Whip the whites until soft peak.
Whip the heavy cream until soft peak.
Fold the whites into the egg/white chocolate mixture.
Next fold the whipped cream into the above mixture.
Fill an isi canister and charge twice.
9. Who would you most like to cook for?
Chef Pichet Ong. He specializes in desserts and I follow him on Instagram.
10. Do you enjoy dining out on your free time? What is your favorite type of cuisine?
I do. I like asian Cuisines like Vietnamese and Szechuan, BBQ, Miso and Bangladeshi as well. I like to try stuff that’s unusual.
11. What features are important to you when selecting a Chef Coat? (particular fabric, style, sleeve length, pockets)
As a woman, it is hard to find a good fitting chef coat especially for small frames like me. I like a short sleeved, fitted chef coat that is light weight.
~Her experience and advice~
12. How long have you been a chef and where did you study?
5 years. I went to the Culinary School at Le Cordon Bleu College in Atlanta.
13. What education or experience would you recommend for aspiring chefs?
Work somewhere for free. Work in the kitchen first. You can do different things like baking or food and when you work in many places as possible, you will see what you like. I love cookbooks and have over 500. My husband and I are big collectors and we read a lot which is my next piece of advice.
14. What would you recommend as far as on-the-job training?
I like to see people bring notebooks and take notes on techniques and getting down the basics which is very important.
15. What is your greatest challenge in getting the ingredients you need?
Seasonal stuff is hard to get. I work with Mother Nature and find sustainable alternatives and improvise with what is available.
16. Do you try to experience your competitors’ food? Do you ever get ideas from them?
Believe it or not, I am not a big dessert person. I only try desserts form people who I look up too. When I am travelling, I eat and try more things but in Atlanta, I don’t eat much dessert.
17. Do you think it is important to visit the markets rather than just have standard orders?
Absolutely. Atlanta is very diverse and it is important to visit markets.
18. How do you test a new recipe without putting it on the permanent menu?
I ask the Chef and the Sous Chefs for their input as well as the cooks and waitresses so they can get excited about it and promote it to our guests.
19. Do you try to experience your competitors’ food? Do you ever get ideas from them?
I look at what we are serving and do modern twists. With respect to southern cuisine, it depends on the clientele whether they like bold portions and different flavors and like to try new things.
20. How do chefs use technology in their day to day operations?
I use nitrogen and a refractometer to measure sugars and fruits.
21. What phone apps do Chefs use in their day to day?
I use Ratio app which is an all-purpose kitchen tool and guide that gives me basic methods and calculates ingredient amounts for all critical cooking preparations.
~2014 and The Future~
22. How has the revolution to eat healthy influenced you as a Chef?
More comfort foods and less portions. I pay attention to food trends like gluten free and cook with less sugar or if the news is featuring foods with alot of flavors, I incorporate that into new dishes.
23. What do you think of “Green Kitchens?” Is it realistic to outfit your kitchens to be environmentally friendly?
It is hard to be sustainable in the kitchen because it is not setup that way and costly to run. We do as much as we can.
24. How does Social Media play a role for Chefs today?
Huge for chefs like Instagram and Twitter – I follow chefs and see what they have and do.