Maybe it’s your wedding day or a Gatsby-themed party you’ve been planning all year. Pâtissier Eyal Liebman is your man if you’re looking to make the dessert table as memorable to the eye as it is to the tastebuds. From candied carrots and rose petals to Valrhona chocolate and Mandelin almonds, Liebman is famous for using some of the most innovative ingredients in the kitchen to make some of the most eye-catching and mouth-watering pastries and desserts we’ve ever encountered. We caught up with the man behind L is For… to find out more about his fascinating career in the kitchen.
Give us a snippet about you. What should people know?
I am a classic French trained pâtissier using my middle-eastern roots as my inspiration. I was introduced to the kitchen by Maître Cuisinier de France Didier Leroy at Didier in Toronto the old fashioned way – I started on dishes and cycled through the stations until we both discovered that chocolate and pastry are my destiny. After leaving my mentor, I ventured to hone my skills at Pâtisserie Sebastien, Black Moon, Pain Perdu, 417 Restaurant+Lounge, Harbour Sixty Steakhouse and recently decided to go on my own with L is For…. I see the job of the cook (the word chef is used too often and for no real reason in Canada – it means leader or chief and just like the title “Mr.” you do not give it to yourself…) as the liaison between the people and the farmer. It is our job to showcase and teach what can be done with local ingredients and influence both the people and the farmers in support of our land. And we do have great produce here in Ontario. I love cooking and it is more than my profession it’s my passion and lifestyle and the best way I could choose to support my minor shoe addiction.
What is by far the most intense but interesting ingredient to work with?
I love chocolate – it is the most versatile medium to work with for me. I look up to classic French cuisine and technique and I aspire to bring in the flavours I grew up with to this methodology.
What is your favourite childhood memory of pastries?
I always wanted to use that cool phrase about my mom’s cooking and how it inspired my cooking, but sadly I still remember the first time I went to a restaurant and realized that food can actually have flavour.
If you could magically make any pastry calorie-free, which one would it be?
Pastries got a very bad name because a lot of pastry chefs in Canada are using sugar excessively. I would not try and claim that pastry is calorie-free, but take a walk in Paris and you’d see a lot of very slim people eating croissants. Everything is good for you in moderation.
Everyone’s currently obsessing about the cronut. What do you think should be the next cronut sensation?
Sorry to disappoint everyone but I never tasted it… I have a little ‘issue’ with the idea of deep frying a croissant… as a young cook my chef took me on a daily basis to his car outside and pointed at the wheels – “You see? This is the wheel, it works just fine, no need to reinvent it…”
What pastry do you have the most requests for from friends and family?
My lemon tart with pistachio crème anglaise. But the ones that really know me would just let me take a look at the fridge and see what winks at me to make them something whimsical that day.
What do you love most about the food scene in Toronto?
I love how the scene evolved in the past five years. When I landed in Toronto in 2008, there were a few independent coffee shops alongside a sea of Tim’s… I really thought there was no hope, but it’s amazing to see how it all evolved to an amazing food scene. Great coffee is in abundance and amazing chefs are cooking great inspiring food.
What’s your hidden gem/go-to restaurant for a night out?
I really appreciate innovation, but I cherish and look up to those who stick to simple food. I do work for Chef Paul Boehmer on the occasional weekend and when I crave a night out I just go to him. Besides the great food, the vibe at Boehmer is always great.
What pastry is the most perfect with a morning coffee?
Croissants – they were made for the morning coffee. Or, a well made salée brèton cookie.
And what about after dinner?
Chocolate in any kind or form – I did not feel that way before I started working with Valrhona, chocolate was just chocolate, but now it has to come at the end of a good meal.
Let’s get social for a mo’. How can readers stay up-to-date with you?
My website has a calendar with where I am. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I’m hosting a chocolate dinner party on August 10th with Rosewood Estates Winery and Abbey Sharp from Abbey’s Kitchen, and there are tickets on Uniiverse, and I am posting more pastry lessons and events on Uniiverse for the future so keep looking.