Nashville

A brand new pastry chef is whipping things up at Loews Vanderbilt. Chef Lexi Francisco brings originality and creative flair to Nashville’s dessert scene without over-complicating her creations. Through the rise of social and digital media, people are beginning to pay more attention to the unsung heroes of our dining experiences. Get to know Lexi and the passion she pours into every bite.

Where are you originally from?

I was born on an army base in Fort Lee, Virginia, but grew up in the very small town of Clarksburg, where you have to drive over 30 minutes just to get to town. That’s why I always wanted to live no more than five minutes away from town. I’m so glad I am now living that dream in Nashville.

How long have you lived in Nashville?

After graduating from college in Nashville, I never thought I would end up building a life here many years later. My husband and I moved from Hawaii in November 2016 and we’ve been fortunate to have the best opportunities since then. It really seemed like it was fate for us to build a life here together –now everything is as it should be.

Favorite guilty pleasure?

I literally can’t live without fresh and steamy pizza at least once a week! Growing up, this was a Friday night tradition with my family to help kick-start the weekend.

Who is someone that inspires you as a pastry chef? 

Kriss Harvey, one of the top ten pastry chefs in America. I’m always learning from him and speak of him often in the kitchen. He has over 20 years of experience, has trained all over the world and publicly shares his knowledge and techniques with everyone. He posts on social media multiple times a day, showcasing technique or dessert how-to’s and even personally answers questions you may have. Few world-renowned pastry chefs would do this so freely.

Do you have any advice for aspiring pastry chefs?

My advice is to be humble. In order to be the best, you must learn early on to talk less and keep your eyes and ears open at all times. This can be hard, especially for early graduates, but remember: learning is knowledge, and knowledge is power! Also, leave your work at work. Doing this has really helped make my work life balance so much better. I come home to relax and enjoy the time I have with my family. That’s something I recommend to anyone in this field.

What is your favorite pastry?

Bon Bons! They’re filled with exquisite flavors and there are endless design possibilities. I started my quest of learning how to make Bon Bons about a year ago after my Instagram feed blew up with them. I must admit, I had plenty of trial and error. One time I tried making Batman Bon Bons for a client, but there isn’t a mold for it, so I optimistically substituted a rubber ice-cube batman tray. After making 60 Batman Bon Bons, only nine (yes, you read that correctly) came out perfectly. I cried.
I haven’t admitted that before, but it’s important to recognize that no matter where we are in our careers, there’s always room for learning and growth. We always want to go above and beyond for our clients because they chose us to bring their imaginations to life. So we are always going to be perfectionists with everything we do.

What are some dessert trends you see breaking through?

Ruby Chocolate, a new development from Barry Callebaut, is a rose-colored product that reportedly is the first new natural chocolate flavor since white chocolate was introduced more than 80 years ago. How incredible is that?! I also continue to see the need to meet a variety of dietary restrictions for pastries such as gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, vegan, etc.

What is a misconception about being a pastry chef?

It isn’t all cupcakes and sprinkles. Pastry chefs work extremely long, labor-intensive hours where your mind needs to focus on every detail of the process. What takes over three hours to construct is consumed in less than 30 seconds. In my kitchen, everything I produce follows a structured and well-planned process. It’s absolutely mandatory to be organized, alert, spotless, disciplined, and quick on your feet at all times in order to lead a successful day in the kitchen.

What are the must-haves in your kitchen?

I can’t live without a handful of things: a digital scale (baking is a science and you must be precise); a thermometer (which I believe is a must-have in any kitchen); a timer; a marble slab; a ruler; a flexible taping knife (Home Depot is where I buy most of my pastry tools); and, most importantly, Valrhona Chocolate — because having the best of the best makes your product stand out!

What is a quote you live by?

While there are many quotes from historic figures, celebrities or even pastry chefs that are important to me, I think the best advice or quote that has always stuck with me actually came from my mom, who said: “Just be you, and they will love you like I do.”
I remember one time in middle school I wanted to try out for the cheerleading team.
I went for it that year, even though all I ever really loved was basketball and soccer.
I think she knew I wouldn’t make it, because cheerleading just wasn’t my thing. My mom sat me down before my tryouts and told me, “Lexi, you may be nervous, but remember to just be you, and they will love you like I do!” She still shares that advice with me to this day, even before a big event, and the sentiment will always hold true. No matter what situation you’re in, always be true to who you are.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

That’s tough to answer, as you never know what life has in store. I do know that since starting my latest adventure here at Loews Vanderbilt, I have a clear vision of what I want to do with my time here. I want to take us to the next level by focusing on creating in-house delicacies and by investing extra time in the small details. I want guests to be able to order a birthday, wedding, or any special occasion cake directly from us. Creating this in-house for guests will be a game-changer in Nashville. Finally, I want to ensure the pastries my team and I create for guests will be the most talked about and best they’ve ever had! I’m thrilled for what my future holds tomorrow and five years from now.

 

Karen