“I wanted to make something that was truly royal,” said Chef Lisa White when I asked her about her creative and decadent King Cake, garnished with bananas, marscapone cheese, pecans, and real gold. It’s Carnival season, so King Cake is on everyone’s brain.
Chef Lisa, the head pastry chef at John Besh’s Domenica, began baking just after high school but abandoned her passion for a “real job.” It wasn’t until almost 20 years later, when Lisa was walking the Camino de Santiago trail in France, that she rediscovered her love of bread.
“I was enamored by these little villages with tiny corner bakeries,” she said. “And I thought to myself, I want to do that.” When she returned from France, Lisa attended the Culinary Institute of America, and after a brief stint in Northern California, she felt herself being called to New Orleans.
Lisa started as a pastry cook at Restaurant August before joining the opening team at Domenica. One day she hopes to open her own corner bakery.
“I really love making bread,” Lisa said. It’s kind of magical – you measure precisely and you do everything “right,” but you still never know exactly how it’s going to turn out.
20 Questions with Chef Lisa White
1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?
Margaret Haughery, the “Bread Lady.” She funded and built orphanages in the 1800s with the money she earned from her bakery.
2. What first brought you to New Orleans?
I came first as a volunteer on a one-time trip, but years later I felt the city calling me back.
3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?
Probably the Bywater or Central City. I would just love to fix up one of the old, historic homes.
4. City Park or Audubon Park?
5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?
It was probably the first time I ever ate at Commander’s Palace. That meal made me feel like a real live princess.
6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?
I love the Costa-Rican Breakfast at Surrey’s.
7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?
There are so many I haven’t even tried yet! If I have to pick, I will go with the shrimp po-boy with pickled vegetables from Killer Po-Boys.
8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?
9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?
10. What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail and where do you go to get it?
11. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?
Snowball. I go to Hansen’s and get one that’s satsuma flavored with a side of sweentened condensed milk. New Orleans is the only place I’ve lived where sweetened condensed milk is a common side-item option!
12. Best spot to see live music?
The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street.
13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?
14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?
Hogs for the Cause – not only is it a great festival, but it also helps make the world a better place.
15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?
This will be my second year riding in Nyx – I am very excited!
16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?
I recently discovered this place called Upcycle – it’s owned by the guy who runs Greg’s Antiques in the French Quarter and is basically like ‘Pinterest comes alive.’
17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art. I just love the rooftop patio!
18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?
Borgne – the atmosphere is just so exciting since it’s close to the dome!
19. Describe New Orleans in one word.
20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?
I was on the Magazine Street bus and this old lady got on – she must have been 80. Her walker was completely covered in lights and beads, and she had this radio attached that was playing Jazz. People in New Orleans live every moment of their life to the fullest, and they are never afraid to be exactly who they are.
Photos courtesy of the Besh Restaurant Group