Move over banana bread, its lemon bars time to shine! There is no one more appropriate to teach us how to make then than Miss Sunshine herself, Alyssa Reich. If you have ever been in her presence, you fully understand what I mean by sunshine! She has a way of making one laugh to the point of peeing ones pants and possibly falling behind with prep! Alyssa's zest (pun intended) for life shows through her baking skills and passion for the kitchen.
I her words...
Who are you
What was your title before COVID-19
Pastry Chef of The Wing WeHo (West Hollywood)
Where do you live?
Los Angeles California
Where were you trained? Tell us about that experience.
I went to school at Valencia College in Orlando Florida studying baking and pastry. I absolutely loved being in culinary school. After my first two years in college I’d realized that I didn’t want to be in a traditional school anymore and decided that I wanted to cook. I went back and forth debating on whether or not to go for cooking and baking and figured that the pastry side of things was more technical and that being in school for that would be the better route. I fell completely in love with it and never turned back. From school I ended up getting recruited to work for Disney World and that really started my journey, I like to equate my years (4 of them) at Disney to being in grad school.
How did you get to the position you are now in? Tell me about your journey!
After being in Orlando for 5 years at the time I decided I desperately needed to get out of Florida and had dreams of moving to Chicago! Longer story short, I packed all my stuff, moved to Chicago, within a few months landed my dream job, where I met you (jenn), spent a good amount of time in those restaurants. Met some other wonderful humans who would help move my journey from The Goat world along into higher positions as not just a pastry cook but a pastry chef! I was working dual jobs at Maddon’s Post and The Wing Chicago. In december of 2019 Maddon’s closed and pushed me to figure what my next move would be so again I packed up all my stuff and moved out to sunny LA! Here I was able to transfer from The Wing chicago to The Wing WeHo. That was the second week of February 2020, I started working part time so I could stage around and again find a restaurant home but then Covid happened and here we are. (I’m writing this to you while I sit with a protein curl treatment in my hair and painted nails)
How much notice did you and your team have before shut down due to COVID-19?
When the Wing (which is a nation wide, and also London) decided to close it doors we had had a few day notice that all the spaces would be closing, but the company was keeping all of its staff on payroll and would be paying our average pay until April 17th. About a week ago on on April 3rd, the company decided to let its entire staff go with hopes to be able to reopen at some point when this all passes over.
What was done with the food left in the restaurant?
On the last day the space was open our leadership team let all of the staff take all of the perishable items and we were able to really stock up on whatever was in the kitchen.
If you are not being paid, how are you making money?
For the past couple weeks I was being paid and now that I’m not, I’m having a really great time dealing with filing for unemployment, much like every person I know in our industry.
What can readers do to help your job security at this time?
SEND CASH MONEY BABY HIT MY VENMO: just kidding.
Going from crazy hours for years to sitting at home, what are you feeling? How are you easing the stress? emotions? boredom? anxiety?
The change from working like a madman for years and years to not knowing what I’m doing from hour to hour now has been an interesting/honestly depressing transition. I’m very fortunate that during this time I’m quarantined with my sister and my parents. I’ve become our house personal chef and spend my days in my kitchen cooking and baking whatever I can with what I’ve got. It’s the only things that has really kept my sanity in tact. My anxiety is at an all time high and I’m trying to just take each day for what it is. I’m healthy and safe and thats all that matters for now. I do do a lot of coloring and word searches though, gotta keep the brain working in some way.
If you knew this was coming, what would you have done differently?
I don’t really know what I would have done differently. I don’t really know if there was any way to actually prepare for this unknown thats happening to all of us. Probably would have tried to have health insurance though :(
After this is over, and you can go back to work, will your views on restaurants change and in what way?
Once this is all over, once we’re all back in kitchens and working and laughing and sweating and yelling I think the I’ll just always be able to look back and realize I should never take any of this for granted. The long hours, the weird lifestyle, the family you make along the way. I’ve always said that no matter what I’m lucky to do what I get to do because I can go anywhere in the world and find a job. It feels weird now to know that thats not always the case.
What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream? In a pre pandemic world it was to “Milk Bar” the rice krispie treat. Get all rich and whatnot making tasty treats! Now, I really just want for all the people I love and even the people I don’t to be able to make it through this next year healthy and happy. I dream the world can heal itself a bit and that people come out of this whole thing a little bit kinder. At the end of the day that all that really matters.
Tell me the craziest thing that has happened to you at work.
OK the craziest thing thats ever happened at work? There is a really really really really really long list of those kind of things that I have experienced in my day. I’ve gotta say the craziest has to be the summer of floods at the Goat. Power outtages, on top of the basement flooding in the middle of a Saturday night service just days after the basement had flooded in the morning. Some years ago, 15 minutes before service/ a very hectic wine dinner was starting our ansel went off and all the water pipes in the kitchen exploded. It poured in the kitchen for a half hour, completely flooding everything. While a team came in to clean the kitchen crew went into the neighboring kitchen (this was in a hotel) to re-prep everything so service could start. I’d never seen a team work so fast and so efficiently it was wild.
Social handles/email/restaurant location/ anything you would like others to see for a visit or follow!
Catch me on my insta @AlyssaLoren
Lemon Bars by Alyssa Reich
I’ve got this gorgeous meyer lemon tree in my backyard so I’ve been very into making these lately but you can use regular lemon too! Or any other citrus you choose!
Crust: 2 cups AP Flour
½ cup Sugar
½ tsp Salt
8oz Butter (cubed small)
In a stand mixer, mix on medium until the butter is dully cut into the dry ingredients and has a damp sand texture
Press the dough into a well sprayed and lined pan. Press the crust up the sides of the pan and the bottom about ¼ in thick. Make sure its at least an inch high on the sides so the filling doesn’t seep underneath the crust.
Bake for 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven of 350 degrees without the filling and let cool slightly before adding the filling.
1 ½ cup Sugar
¼ cup AP flour
4ea Large Eggs
4ea Lemons (zest and juice)
While crust is baking, mix your sugar and flour together. Add in eggs and mix well. Once the eggs are incorporated nicely, add in lemon juice and zest.
Once crust is slightly cooled add filling and bake for another 20/25 minutes, rotating halfway through.
Let cool completely (about 2 hours, possibly more). Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cut and enjoy!
I like to freeze them and eat them frozen!