In yesterday's interview, I learned about Lei's range of food preferences. Today she explains how she burns off all those calories. If you're a fan of baking (or know someone who is), tell us your favorite dessert in the comments to win the item at the end of our conversation. A winner will be announced on Friday.
Read our first part with Lei over here. Then finish the interview below. . . . When you're not in the kitchen baking, what are you doing? I'm outside-- at the beach, hiking or enjoying drinks on a patio somewhere. What do you like to do at the beach? Surf, swim, paddleboard, etc. I enjoy playing catch on the beach and boogie boarding.
Where did you attend culinary school, and was there something you learned that you might not have learned so quickly if you had not attended? I attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York. The importance of mise en place! Last place you visited? I just returned from Santa Barbara. We visited numerous wineries. My favorites were Santa Barbara Winery and Lafond Winery. I also spent one afternoon at the Santa Barbara Zoo, which really impressed me. It's the perfect size with lots of animals and lots of shade to walk around in. There's also a great new restaurant called Himalayan Kitchen. The momos (dumplings) are delicious, and I had the chance to try yak meat for the first time!
Where did you grow up? If you're not from Orange County, what brought you here? I grew up in Pennsylvania. I had a close friend living in Hollywood who convinced me to move to Los Angeles after graduating high school.
What were you up to five years ago? I was wrapping up my time at Stonehill Tavern and was about to open up Sugar Blossom.
What's your favorite childhood memory? Learning to ski. I learned to ski at Tanglwood in the Poconos. I would later ski mountains in upstate New York, where my brother lives. Since moving to California in 2004, I take an annual ski trip to Sun Valley, Idaho. Of course, I enjoy skiing locally as well at Mammoth Mountain. I love skiing because it's a huge rush. I also love the amount of concentrating I actually have to do when I ski. It's not just standing there and speeding straight down a mountain. I really love honing my technique and paying attention to all the gradations of the mountain slope.
Last song playing on your radio: All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor.
Hardest lesson you've learned: Failure is a necessary step to reach success.
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What would you be doing if you weren't in this business? I'd probably be an infectious disease specialist, thought it's hard to imagine not being in the food industry! I graduated Bowdoin College with a major in Biochemistry and was accepted into New York University's graduate program to study Molecular Toxicology. I deferred and well, obviously things changed for me career-wise. I still find the topic fascinating, though.
Do you have any additional skills that aren't related to food? I'm an author. My book, Beach House Baking: An Endless Summer of Delicious Desserts was just published in June.
Sugar Blossom Bake Shop is located at 204 Avenida del Mar, San Clemente, (949) 429-5555; www.sugarblossombakeshop.com.