Café des Architectes at Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
In 2010 Leigh Omilinsky joined Sofitel Chicago Water Tower as assistant pastry chef. Promoted to Executive Pastry Chef in 2012, she now oversees the hotel’s entire pastry program including private dining, amenities and the plated desserts at Café des Architectes and Le Bar. Here, she collaborates with Executive Chef Greg Biggers, creating contemporary French cuisine influenced by local flavor.
An enthusiast of the slow food movement, Omilinsky values the true nature of seasonal ingredients and incorporates this philosophy in her baking. “I love the art of perfecting seemingly simple things, and this comes through the use of quality ingredients,” she says. Omilinsky’s acclaimed dishes, which change seasonally, currently include a Peach Bavarois with blackberry sorbet, macerated stone fruit and basil oil and a Sesame Sponge Cake with raspberry mousse, aloe sorbet and graham crackers. In addition to collaborating on Café des Architectes’ Five and Ten-Course Degustation menus, Omilinsky has created the restaurant’s Dessert Degustation, mini tastings of her top confections.
Growing up in Chicago’s north suburbs, her childhood dream of becoming a jazz piano player quickly changed after a pivotal moment in San Francisco. Dining at the famous Top of the Mark restaurant with her family, ten-year-old Omilinsky ordered crème brûléefor the first time. Stunned by its simplicity and delivery of flavor, she had found her passion. This led to a new hobby of baking enthusiastically supported by her mother. Hooked, Omilinsky spent her teenage years working at bakeries and watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on television, preparing for a career in the pastry arts.
In 2002 she moved to Denver, Colorado to attend Johnson & Wales University, earning a double degree in Baking and Pastry Arts and Food Service Management. An externship at the Lodge at Koele and Manele Bay in Lanai, Hawaii was followed by a return to Denver to work at the JW Marriott. In 2006 she ventured back to Chicago, where she went to work for James Beard award winning chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand; first at Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood as the lead pastry cook and then at 4 star TRU restaurant as pastry tournant.
Enamored with the fine dining environment, Omilinsky moved on to Michelin-rated L2O restaurant in 2009, working under celebrated chef Laurent Gras. In her role as chef de partie she developed an unwavering eye for detail and a demand for perfection all around. “Everything from a perfectly clean kitchen to a perfectly executed technique….these principles still guide me in my role as executive pastry chef today,” she says.