Joining Lula Café as pastry chef in fall 2013, Kelly Helgesen has been cooking and baking since she could read the recipes on the back of cans and chocolate chip packages. A native of Houston, Helgesen originally moved to Chicago to attend Loyola University, but left after just one semester to attend Kendall College where she studied savory cuisine and baking and pastry. In 2008, Kelly graduated from Kendall with an Associates degree in Baking and Pastry Arts.
Helgesen credits her quick rise and range of experience leading up to Lula for her success today. As a pastry cook at L20 from 2009 to 2010, she mastered organization and precision. She next worked as pastry sous chef at Los Angeles’ Bottega Louie, where she practiced classic French techniques. Lastly, she moved back to Houston to be close to her family and took a position at Oxheart, assisting in the pastry department, where the emphasis was utilizing ingredients from the Texas Gulf Coast and local farms. All of these distinct styles play a crucial role in developing the pastry program at Lula, a place that is a whole new challenge.
Each day at Lula begins with chef Helgesen’s brunch pastries like coffee cake, turnovers, and kolaches – a tradition Czech pastry popular in her hometown of Houston. Daytime desserts are classic and fun, including a cookie plate and seasonal pie, such as sweet potato with toasted cardamom marshmallows. Desserts for nightly dinner service are elegant and composed, while still approachable. Milk chocolate cremeux with earl grey tea, honey gastrique and fleur de lait was inspired by the simple flavor paring of milk and honey while a mascarpone ice cream cake was created with Baskin Robbins in mind, but served with caramelized sunflower seeds, local rhubarb and opal basil. Her cuisine is self-characterized as accessible and honest, yet creative and new.