How do you win a James Beard Award?
If you’re Laura Sawicki, the route to the food industry equivalent of an Oscar begins in Westport. It also runs through Texas, and includes an art history major, an electrical fire and a broken wrist.
After graduating from Staples in 1997, Laura headed to Colorado College. That art history degree led to entry-level — and not very fulfilling — jobs.
Her eureka! moment came while leafing through a food magazine at a doctor’s office. (No, that’s not the broken wrist part.)
Soon after, she enrolled in culinary school. Then came pastry jobs at Craftbar (Manhattan), Marlow & Sons (Brooklyn) and Paloma. But that Greenpoint restaurant went up in flames on Election Night 2008.
As Laura raced outside, she fell and broke her wrist. She was jobless for months during physical therapy.
But sweet things happened to the pastry chef. She was asked to consult on a project in Austin. From there, she was invited to run all the pastry at the restaurant.
That was 2009. She’s loved her life and work in the Lone Star State ever since.
In 2012, Food & Wine Magazine cited Laura as a Best New Pastry Chef.
In 2013, while at La Condesa, Laura was named a James Beard Best Pastry Chef semi-finalist. Only 20 chefs earn that rank.
This year, at Launderette, she is again a semi-finalist. The restaurant itself is one of 5 finalists for Best New Restaurant.
Winners will be announced in early May.
In theater, “break a leg” means “good luck.” In the culinary world — for Laura Sawicki, at least — the phrase might be “break a wrist.”
“06880” BONUS DESSERT FEATURE:
Want to know more about Sawicki’s creations? Austin 360 food critic Matthew Odam writes:
She hybridizes a few ideas with a fluffy and flaky take on apple pie ($9) laced with angular cuts of cheddar cheese on a plate made sticky with salted beer caramel. It’s at once an apples-and-cheese plate and a caramelized apple, and the unexpected sage ice cream on top is proof that nobody in town bests her in the ice cream game.
Sawicki exhibited more ice cream brilliance with the candied ginger ice cream on her English sticky toffee pudding ($9) and the cool, herbal blast of basil ice cream on a lemon curd tart ringed by compressed strawberries on a dish that glowed like an early afternoon at an Italian beach.
Completing the idea of dinner as a celebration, Sawicki’s dessert menu includes bite-size birthday cake ice cream sandwiches that taste like Mexican sheet cake ice cream wedged between soft layers of cookie dough.