From her role as a judge on Food Network’s Cake Wars to her Los Angeles-area bakery fōnuts, Waylynn Lucas is an award-winning pastry chef who defies conventions. Her unique style embraces the marriage of nostalgia with modern flavors and techniques. This is exemplified by fōnuts’ most popular offering – doughnuts that are baked, not fried, and that exist in an eye-popping riot of colors and flavors, ranging from the gluten-free and vegan Coconut Passion Fruit to the decidedly meaty Chorizo Cheddar. We caught up with Waylynn for an afternoon, talking about her passion for pastry while she baked her Chocolate Blueberry Earl Grey Lavender Tart for us.
SO WHAT DROVE YOU TO CREATE YOUR FIRST FŌNUT?
It sort of happened by accident. It was a gathering of minds at the right moment at the right time, for the idea to emerge. It is something that fits perfectly with my dessert style as a pastry chef. I love reinventing old classics, and giving them a modern spin and whenever possible making it a bit healthier if I can.
WHERE DID THE INSPIRATION COME FROM FOR THE DESSERT YOU ARE MAKING US TODAY?
I wanted to combine some of my favorite things like chocolate – who doesn’t love that – with fresh fruit, which I always love in my desserts, as well as tea for its warming, flavorful and aromatic qualities. And, finally, it features lavender, which is beautifully scented and soothing.
WHAT KIND OF FLAVORS DO YOU GRAVITATE TOWARD AND WHY?
Anything well balanced, fresh and vibrant. I gravitate more towards savory flavors as I am surrounded by sweets all day. I need the savory to balance me out. I surprisingly don’t have a huge sweet tooth.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS CAN BE CHALLENGING AT TIMES. DID YOU HAVE ANY EARLY STRUGGLES AS A PASTRY CHEF?
I did and still do. It became much easier once I got out of my own way and stopped trying to create desserts that had to be earth shattering and insanely unique. Not all desserts can be that and the ones that are become that much more naturally. That is what makes them special. I had to stop trying so hard and to be open to finding inspiration in new ways, and in every place I could find it. Once I opened my world to more than just food the inspiration came from flowers, nature, art work, memories, sculpture, music, just about everything. Make it taste good first and foremost and sometimes less is more.
MAKING GOOD PASTRY CAN BE SUCH AN INTRICATE PROCESS. HOW DO TOOLS MAKE YOUR WORK EASIER – OR HARDER?
Pastry is such an intricate process, it requires a lot of patience. Technique and precision is everything. Having the right tools can really make or break a recipes final outcome. That is why I love Matfer. They have everything I need to get any job done, from breads to chocolate work, to plated desserts. Their tools are of such high quality, they really help you attain that precision that is needed in pastry. The exoglass molds are a perfect example of how innovation and new technology can make baking something so simple as a pâte sucrée tart dough so much better and take it to the next level. It has given us chefs just what we need. Something that cooks quickly and evenly, and cools almost immediately; you can literally grab the molds right out of the oven. They are lightweight, super durable and easy to clean. Pure magic!
WE COULD EAT FŌNUTS ALL DAY. THAT’S WHY WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT OTHER DESSERTS YOU LOVE. WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE DESSERT – THE ONE YOU’D SERVE AT A DINNER PARTY TO YOUR GUESTS?
I love ice cream. It reminds me of being a kid. It is impossible to be in a bad mood eating an ice cream cone. Well most desserts this applies to, which is why I got into desserts in the first place. To make people happy and feel like a kid again whenever possible.
I love making Pavlova for dinner parties. It is such a simple yet complex dessert, and an easy way to incorporate whatever fresh fruits are around and really keep it seasonal and versatile. It is not something you see very often so it impresses your dinner guests for sure!
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO WATCH SOMEONE TRY A REALLY GREAT DESSERT FOR THE FIRST TIME?
There’s nothing like it. Part of the reason I got out of the restaurant industry and wanted to own my own business was to be able to take part and witness customers enjoying my desserts. As a chef we spend countless hours in the kitchen working, cooking and creating dishes. Then we never get to see its final purpose. Once it leaves the kitchen and heads out into the dining room, it’s gone. Having my own bakery allows me to interact with the customers, get their feed back and watch their reactions while they eat my desserts. There is no greater compliment than watching someone’s eyes light up and the smile come over their face after taking a bite of something delicious. Great food can create a memory, an experience. That is what I seek out, and I don’t feel I’ve done my job unless I’ve accomplished that.