Leigh Omilinsky considers Italy her first love, making Nico Osteria a natural fit. Growing up in Chicago’s north suburbs, her childhood dream of becoming a jazz piano player quickly changed after a pivotal crème brulee experience at San Francisco’s Top of the Mark restaurant. Stunned by its simplicity and delivery of flavor, at the ripe age 10 years old she stumbled upon her passion and pastry philosophy. Hooked, Omilinsky spent her teenage years working at bakeries and watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on television.
After receiving degrees in Baking & Pastry Arts and Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University, Omilinsky began as a pastry cook at the JW Marriott in Denver. In 2006, she ventured back to Chicago where she worked for James Beard award winning chefs Rick Tramonto and Gale Gand; first at Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood as the lead pastry cook and then at TRU restaurant as pastry tournant. Enamored with the fine dining environment, Omilinsky began working at L2O restaurant in 2009, where she worked as chef de partie under celebrated chef Laurent Gras. In 2010, Leigh Omilinsky joined Sofitel Chicago Water Tower as assistant pastry chef. Promoted to Executive Pastry Chef in 2012, she oversaw the hotel’s pastry program including private dining, amenities and the plated desserts at Café des Architectes and Le Bar. In 2013, Omilinsky was included on Zagat’s 30 Under 30 list and received the Jean Banchet award for Best Pastry Chef.
After five years working with French pastry, Omilinsky jumped at the opportunity to venture further south and explore all that Italian cuisine has to offer. As Nico Osteria’s pastry chef, Omilinsky continues her pursuit of mastering the balance between simplicity and depth of flavor.