Originally posted on NYTIMES
Written By JOANNA NIKAS
Photos By EMILY ANDREWS
Name Lexie Smith
Hometown – Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Now Lives In a quaint house in Ridgewood, Queens, with her boyfriend and pet python. The space doubles as her test kitchen and studio.
Claim to Fame Ms. Smith is a baker and an artist, known for her work as the pastry chef at New York hot spots like Café Henrie, El Rey Coffee Bar and Luncheonette. She creates sculptures out of bread and posts photos of them on Instagram, @leche_smith. “It’s a way to encourage the viewing of bread as a medium to be appreciated,” she said. Part of Ms. Smith’s process is also observing her creations as they grow stale and decompose, creating no waste.
Big Break A self-taught baker, Ms. Smith met Gerardo Gonzalez, the chef at El Rey and Lalito, through her brother-in-law, who was a regular at those establishments. As she worked her way up to pastry chef, Mr. Gonzalez introduced her to artists like Laila Gohar, who use food as a medium. Ms. Smith began experimenting with bread herself. Her first project, for a pop-up gallery in SoHo in 2015, involved 15 loaves of sourdough bread, which were stacked into tower-like sculptures before spectators were invited to consume them.
Latest Project Ms. Smith recently traveled to Rajasthan, India, to learn chapatiand paratha history and techniques. “I’m interested in cultural anthropology with bread as the lens,” she said. “Bread is a very integral part of the Indian diet, but it’s really about the women’s integral role in the family unit and what sacrifices they’ve had to make to maintain tradition.”
Next Thing Ms. Smith is working on Bread on Earth, an online initiative to share stories and recipes about bread from around the world. “It’s going to be a virtual hub for what the kitchen and oven space used to represent,” she said. The project is expected to start in the next few months.
Sourcing Recipes For Ms. Smith, bread making is not just a passion and skill, but also a window into civilization. “When you take such a basic human staple as bread, it really allows for complicated conversations to arise,” she said. “It as an entry point into these communities.”