Pastry chef Andrea Litvin is no stranger to working with some of the restaurant industry’s biggest names.

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta, Athens, Ga.-based Litvin went to work for Top Chef: All-Stars winner Richard Blais at his now-shuttered Atlanta restaurant Home. Litvin also did a stint at Blais’ Flip Burger Boutique before taking a position with the opening team of ABC Kitchen in New York City, working under culinary legend Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

It wasn’t long before Litvin returned to her home state, teaming up once again with Blais at his new-American eatery The Spence, located in midtown Atlanta. Litvin complements Blais’ daily changing menu with chocolate- and dairy-influenced dishes such as lemon curd and warm chocolate cake topped with honey ice cream.

Litvin recently spoke to Nation’s Restaurant News about learning from top chefs, seasonal flavors and working with dairy.

You worked for Jean-Georges, one of the most prestigious chefs in the U.S., at ABC Kitchen. How did that shape your style and approach to pastry?

Working for chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and chef Dan Kluger taught me respect and appreciation for ingredients at their essence, as well as the understanding for simplicity and being deliberate in execution.

Now at The Spence you work with a very famous chef in his own right, Richard Blais. How has that experience been for you?

Working for chef Blais has proved to be challenging and inspiring on a daily basis. When being influenced and guided with such vigor and conviction, it challenges me to innovate on a daily basis.

Pumpkin seed custard cup at The SpenceHow do you approach the dessert menu at The Spence? What kind of experience are you trying to provide your customers?

My philosophy is to guide the clientele into the unexpected. I do not wish to alienate or frustrate the customer, but I do wish to inspire with the level of whimsy.

Atlanta doesn't usually experience very cold winters, but how do you incorporate seasonal flavors?

I'm always focused on the seasons as they guide the way I live my own life. I often feel as if seasonality is contrived and forced. If it's not felt in an organic way it is disingenuous. Right now I am focused on incorporating more warm flavors and a different level of richness to my desserts.

What influences do you draw on when coming up with new menu ideas?

Along the same note, I follow my emotions and feelings, whether that be from art, fashion, music, nature or even pop culture.

How often do you change the menu?

As often as I feel appropriate, which is pretty regularly.

Are there any ingredients you find interesting or challenging to work with?

I really love working with dairy. It can have such complexity based upon the different cooking preparations.

How do you incorporate dairy in your menu?

I am doing things that involve roasting, dehydrating and caramelizing different dairies.

More consumers are ordering dessert when dining out, some sources say. Have you found that to be true?

Yes! I have always found that exceptional products are traditionally received with exceptional results.

How do you envision the role your desserts play in the dining experience at The Spence?

I would like to feel as if it is a well-placed conclusion to their dining experience.

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