Chicago native Sarah Levy has wanted to work with pastries for as long as she can remember — a life-long passion that blossomed into something tangible in 2004.
The pastry chef has become something of a local celebrity, winning a Food Network Challenge for best extreme dinosaur cake, and being featured on multiple TV shows, as well as in magazines and newspapers.
She started her company in March 2004, making chocolate candies out of her mom’s kitchen. A year later she had a wholesale business that included Whole Foods Markets in the Midwest as well as smaller gourmet grocery shops.
In Sept. 2005, Levy launched her first retail store at 11 E. Oak St., Chicago, and expanded her line to include morning pastries, specialty and wedding cakes, tarts, chocolate gift baskets, espresso drinks and other pastries. She has since moved to a larger location at 70 E. Oak St., Chicago, and opened a second location inside of Macy’s department store on State Street in November 2007.
Levy, a graduate of Northwestern University, the French Pastry School of Chicago and Francis W. Parker, also trained at several of the country’s top restaurants and bakeries, including Spago Beverly Hills and Bittersweet Bakery in Chicago.
What did you think you would be when you grew up?
Owning a pastry shop was the only thing I can remember really wanting to do. I always loved eating dessert and sweets as they have always had the ability to make me happy!
Name one of your favorite movies.
Kings of Pastry. It is a great documentary that follows Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer (chef/co-owner of the French Pastry School, my alma matter, and my mentor) during his journey to receive the master M.O.F. title! It has some great pastry and life lessons.
Describe your perfect dream vacation.
Anytime I can take a break, I love to hop down to Cabo. I am constantly on-the-go with work, so when I vacation, I love to just relax and do nothing — think beach, good food, a pool and great company.
What book are you currently reading?
The Miracle of Mindfulnessby Thich Nhat Han. It’s all about the importance of living in the present and how that’s the key to happiness. I also love reading cookbooks, although they are “regular” books.
Aside from a family member, whom would you most want to be stranded with on a deserted island?
Tabitha or Napoleon D’umo — they are awesome choreographers (from my favorite show, So You Think You Can Dance), so that they could teach me some great dance moves!
What is your pet peeve?
Flakiness — when people don’t follow through with what they say they are going to do.
I’d give anything to meet:
Ina Garten. I’m a big fan of her cookbooks and food. Her recipes are simple and delicious. She really proves that simple food is the best.
The best piece of advice I’ve received:
Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.
What excites you most about
Besides being surrounded by delicious food all day, the wedding cake side of my business has blossomed recently and I really enjoy working with couples and creating new and exciting cakes. Last year, I brought my sister’s wedding cake to Cabo (in the overhead bin) and then decorated the cake there. That was definitely a challenge, but it helped prepare me for when we packed up six suitcases worth of cake and equipment for our debut on Food Network Challenge.”