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ARTIST PROFILE: Rene Elkaslasy, pastry chef and more

April 24, 2014
By MARTHA ALLEN - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Rene Elkaslasy is an artist, no matter what medium she happens to be working in any given time.

At age 28, she has created and shown wire sculpture, as well as intricate jewelry and mixed media paintings, and her big, bold canvases graced the walls of her coffee shop, Cuppa Joe, a business she owned and ran last year. Right now, she is focusing considerable energy on pastry chefing at the Lake Placid Lodge, getting ready for the restaurant's summer reopening May 7.

"I'm settling down a little bit," she said.

Article Photos

Rene Elkaslasy

Brought up in two different worlds - New York City and Keene Valley - Elkaslasy has surprised even those who know her well with her quicksilver moves from one milieu to another.

Blogging became another artistic medium, using text and photography as a journal and to keep in touch with people. Documenting her travels through Tasmania in 2012, Elkaslasy wrote:

"In the world of blogging, you can ultimately create your own reality. ... I could tell of my childhood, where I spent the better half growing up in the heart of the Adirondacks where I left no rock unturned in that enchanted forest expanse, that I found peace in the shade of the trees and the rustling of leaves. I climbed ... trees and ice, yes ice."

Trees and ice are all right, but the mercurial Elkaslasy is also down with the city. After a stint of study at the Art of Vancouver in British Columbia, which ended in 2010, she received a different kind of education working as a pastry chef at Aureole, New York, a restaurant in the Times Square theater district.

Aureole allowed her creative expression.

"Working at Lake Placid Lodge comes the closest to my experience in New York City. It's equally challenging."

Elkaslasy does like a challenge.

Cuppa Joe was a one-woman show, as Elkaslasy put it, open seven days a week all day, with free wireless Internet "to encourage campers and loiterers," with specialty coffees and teas, $4 sandwiches and baked goods. All of the food was made by Elkaslasy herself, in a rented, off-location kitchen. She held children's poetry readings and hosted art shows.

"So many things," Elkaslasy said, "it was hard to do everything right."

The coffee shop was never intended to be her life's work, but a learning experience, and the experience was a positive one. She garnered good reviews, had fun with the loiterers, learned about business - "it was a teaching tool for paper work" - and broke even in the end.

Recently, she worked a 74-hour week at the Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing for Laurie Desourcie.

"They were understaffed during a busy week," Elkaslasy said, "and I hopped on their pastry staff. You can learn from every experience."

She has many disparate experiences to look back on. She hitchhiked around New Zealand in 2006-2007, where she worked on macadamia nut and kiwi fruit farms and participated in sheep shearing.

"I would never do that now," she said.

Three years ago, she worked extracting honey and feeding bees for the Tasmanian Honey Company.

"I thought I would be working outside, but at first I was inside, doing repetitive labor. It gave me so much time to think. And I thought about chocolates, to be honest."

Elkaslasy has dreamed for years of being a chocolatier.

"I keep my DBA (Enuf Chocolates) current," she said. "Getting a chocolate tempering machine is still a goal."

On her current blog, she posts photographs of her culinary creations as well as recipes. While some highly sophisticated desserts are featured.

"I don't want to scare people," she said. "I want to get people baking. ... My sister Eden told me, 'Don't forget to make a chocolate chip cookie.' She reminds me not to get too crazy. Dial it back and show restraint."

At this, Rene Elkaslasy smiles her dazzling smile.

Right now it's mud season in the Adirondacks, and the Lake Placid Lodge, like many other businesses in the area, is gearing up for the summer season.

"I would like to tempt you with a few of our menu ideas, but we are developing them as the reopening nears," she said. "We're still in menu conceptualization, deliberation mode."

Elkaslasy and fellow pastry chef M. Magee Dunn are working with executive chef Truman Jones "to provide something Lake Placid hasn't seen yet," she said.

She would like to see more diners enjoying a delicious dessert as an integral part of the whole meal. Dessert should be just enough to feel satiated.

"Portion size is calculated," she explained. "You're not supposed to feel awful."

With a focus on pastry, Elkaslasy said that now she is settling down.

"It's a little scary to settle," she said, "but I look forward to building consistency in building relationships."

If she were to give advice, she said, she would encourage people to travel when they're young. If you are contemplating starting a new business, never shy away. But never choose a place that doesn't have an existing kitchen.

"It's definitely a hindrance."

Check out Rene Elkaslasy's blog at enufchocolates.wordpress.com.

 
 

 

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