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Why LA Is America’s Greatest Pastry Playground

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“I think Los Angeles has it all.”

Pastry from Superba Food + Bread
Pastry from Superba Food + Bread
Superba Food + Bread
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Los Angeles is in the middle of a culinary boom right now, with more and more restaurants opening every day. Just about all of those will offer and/or require some level of dessert or pastry service to go along with their regular savory menu, whether it's morning coffee and pastries or late night dessert after a rich meal.

That kind of volume means more diners than ever are being exposed to the amazing wealth of great pastry chefs in this city, each pushing their own way forward to make desserts and sweets part of the larger dining conversation. Los Angeles is learning about the art of pastry in a way that's never been seen before, and guests through the door are more receptive to it all than at any other dining moment in history.

With the same attention to detail, an equal opportunity to craft seasonal delicacies from our bountiful farmers markets, and more eyes than ever on their beautiful, often multicultural work, pastry chefs across the city are really setting their own tone right now. Eater talked to seven top-notch bread makers, pie perfectionists, and dessert specialists across Los Angeles — including 2016 James Beard Foundation award winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef, Dahlia Narvaez — to get their thoughts on just how exciting it is, right now, to be making pastry in Los Angeles.

Chef: Carlos Enriquez
Restaurant: Superba Food + Bread

"L.A. is a fusion of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities, all of which have access to a very diverse and fresh produce market. Add to this the tremendous support for bringing back the grain belt to Southern California, which is pushing for locally grown heirloom and ancient grain varieties that are then fresh milled to order, using old world techniques that give us whole grain flours, which are healthier and tastier."

Chef: Rebecca Merhej
Restaurant: Love & Salt

"The pastry scene in LA has really taken a turn into this Mecca of insanely creative and talented young chefs. I strongly feel that people are willing and eager to try anything in regards to sweets and LA is the place to do that. Everyone wants the next new thing whether its a beautiful bundt cake covered in flowers to these crazy amazing donuts... Because of this, it allows myself to have fun and get wild with pastries and not to be afraid of trying new recipes and ideas."

Love & Salt Rebecca Merhej

Chocolate orange tart at Love & Salt

Chef: Garry Larduinat
Restaurant: Hotel Bel-Air

"I believe Los Angeles is one of the best places to easily find well-made and delicious pastries and sweets. There is so much diversity in this city, and all types of sweet-tooth cravings can be more than satisfied here. Whether I'm in the mood for a French Cannelé, Korean shaved ice, or the perfect doughnut, it's all here within easy reach."

Chef: Shannon Swindle
Restaurant: Craft Los Angeles

"There is a great pedigree here with local pastry chefs — we have a history with two of the greatest American pastry chefs ever: Nancy Silverton and Sherry Yard.

Just as the restaurant scene has grown with chef-driven places, the bakery and pastry world has really grown over the last 5 to 7 years. There are amazing restaurant chefs in all sorts of styles from my rustic-refined simplicity to modern molecular desserts, great pie bakers, wonderful bread bakers from Venice to Atwater Village. Also, with the ethnic diversity here there are sweets from every corner of the globe and culture: halo halo to Indian candies to great Latin bakeries.

We get the absolute best products from California farms, so to me the best pastry chefs are the ones utilizing those ingredients to the fullest.

Each year a huge group of us host a bake sale called "Bakers will Bake" at the Hollywood Farmers Market, headed by Roxana Jullapat, where we all get to show our goods and sell them for charity. That booth is a work of amazing craftsmanship — and on par with any other city’s bakers and pastry chefs in my opinion…from stellar laminated pastries to perfect pies to more "upscale" desserts. I think Los Angeles has it all."

Chef: Nicole Rucker
Restaurant: Rucker’s Pie

"We are free to be you and me. Los Angeles is the new San Francisco in that way."

A fruit pie from chef Nicole Rucker. Nicole Rucker

Pie from Rucker's Pie

Chef: Kristine de la Cruz
Restaurant: Crème Caramel LA

"I think L.A. is the best place for pastry right now because of the sheer diversity of our community. Chinese egg tarts, Mexican conchas, Indian sweets, Filipino ube everything, and of course amazing French pastry are just a few of the delicious eats that can be found in this city. If you had a childhood favorite treat, I’m fairly certain you will find someone making it here in L.A."

Chef: Dahlia Narvaez
Restaurant: Mozza Group

"Los Angeles has always been a great city for desserts and sweets, and there are too many reasons why. But when I think of Los Angeles sweets, I don’t think about beautiful French-style croissants or creamy Italian gelato. I think about all the different cultures here that create their own unique sweets. To me, that makes Los Angeles among the best places for pastry."