As sweet a place as Lula Cafe is, the Logan Square mainstay is about to get a lot sweeter. Owners Jason Hammel and Amalea Tschilds have hired pastry chef Kate Neumann. The move coincides with plans for a major expansion of the restaurant.
"We just took over the space next door, which will allow us to really expand the pastry kitchen," said Hammel. "We felt we needed to just ramp things up, and Kate is a perfect fit."
Neumann became one of the city's top pastry chefs while at mk, maintaining the high standards and creative force set by her predecessor, Mindy Segal. After suffering a near fatal hit-and-run car accident several years ago, she has slowly been working her way back into the city's culinary fabric, having worked as a chef's assistant at Alinea, then moving next door to BOKA last fall to run the pastry program; she has also been consulting on a few projects.
Hiring Neumann signals that Lula is going to start getting a lot more serious about its dessert menu. While it was never really dull, it was never a "must-try" document either; at least not like what Patrick Fahy is turning out now at Blackbird. Not that it hasn't had its occasional stars: I still long for the banana cream pie of former pastry chef Jane Roberts, and the butterscotch pot de crème I had about a week ago was pretty damn good. Still, Neumann will likely bring new energy and creativity to the seasonally-driven restaurant; the fact that the coming expansion will give her more room to stretch her wings bodes well for the daily regulars, who will no doubt soon be asking to see the dessert menu along with the savory one.