Michelle Kozak learned how to bake bread in seventh grade, but it was sweets she was drawn to the most.
“From a very early age, I was surrounded by many family members – my grandfather, my mom, my great-grandmother and my grandmother – who were always cooking or baking,” Kozak says.
As an adult, Kozak would often attend baking classes around Columbus, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the Grandview Heights resident quit her banking job to embrace baking full-time with Pâtisserie Lallier.
Her overseas classes in Paris were an inspiration. Kozak heard about the classes from an acquaintance and finally had the opportunity to go in the summer of 2009.
“It was on my radar for a while,” she says.
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Michelle Kozak graduates from Le Cordon Bleu, December 2011.
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Double layer mocha cake
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Ginger Pate de Fruits
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Kozak’s first class at the culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu, lasted four weeks. While the normal course was taught over two to three months, this intensive one meant that Kozak attended class for six and 12 hours per day, sometimes on weekends.
“I was just going for fun,” Kozak says.
She enjoyed the class so much that she went back to Paris to do a second and third class, ultimately earning a pastry chef diploma. Despite the romanticism one might associate with baking in Paris, Kozak was kept quite busy. After sitting in a three-hour class, Kozak and her classmates here given a recipe and were made to prepare at least one of the items the chef had demonstrated. Sometimes, her efforts left her too tired to sightsee.
“It was kind of stressful,” Kozak says.
Still, Kozak preferred having time to immerse herself in her baking for a month abroad over trying to juggle classes with work back home.
In summer 2010, Kozak began delivering croissants to the Global Gallery in Clintonville.
“I just wanted to try it out,” she says.
She was curious to see whether people would be interested in what she baked, and whether she might be able to earn a living from it. The following summer, she started bringing her products to farmers’ markets.
By 2012, Kozak had quit her full-time job.
“I was really motivated to do the business full-time,” Kozak says.
Kozak’s pastry shop name is filled with as much French culture as the sweets she sells.
The name Pâtisserie Lallier has special significance for Kozak. Since many pastry shops in France are named for a chef’s last name, Kozak decided to use her grandfather’s family name, Lallier. The Lalliers left France in the 1800s for the U.S. While Kozak isn’t sure whether her family is connected with a Michel de Lallier, who was mayor of Paris in the 1400s, she and her family members enjoy taking photos in front of the Rue Lallier street sign while visiting the city.
Because Kozak doesn’t make items that require refrigeration, the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Cottage Food Provision allows her to sell her products without preparing them in a commercial kitchen space. Her label includes ingredients, her address and her phone number, along with a note that the product is home-produced.
Kozak admits that if she only made one product, she would tire quickly from the repetition. Instead she has a large variety of sweets. Croissants are her main sellers at farmers’ markets. She also makes paves, which are small nut cakes that use nut flour. She sells them at coffee shops.
Kozak’s fruit tarts are made from the fruit trees and berry bushes she grows herself: blackberry, raspberry, mulberry, serviceberry. She also has peach, apple and pear trees, and recently planted apricot and cherry trees.
Because her home has limited space, Kozak has had to be creative in order to produce freshly baked items. To that end, she has added candies to her list of items, since she can afford to make them earlier in the week.
Though her husband, Terry Eisele, helps set up space at farmers’ markets and assists with deliveries, Kozak is a one-woman show when it comes to the baking.
Kozak also leads baking classes, some out of her home and others in public spaces.
“The people are always really appreciative and nice to work with,” she says.
Michelle Kozak will talk about the art of pastry making and her time at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris at 7 p.m. March 8 at the Grandview Heights Public Library.
Sarah Sole is an editor. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.