In a move that could remake San Francisco's notion of pan dulce ― Mexican sweet rolls ― pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez is working with Mission panaderia La Victoria to modernize the baking program at the 60-year-old bakery and cafe.
Last week, Villavelazquez began doing production for Les Elements in La Victoria's commissary kitchen. This week he starts working with the La Victoria staff to improve their pan dulce techniques and introduce new, higher-quality ingredients, all, he says, without straying too far from panaderia tradition. Villavelazquez tells SFoodie he'll start shadowing the bakers' shift ― 2 a.m.-2 p.m. ― to work with 30-year La Victoria vets Raul Vasquez and Lorenzo Castro on teaching new techniques, though Villavelazquez himself plans to make fillings and more intricate items.
“The hardest part will be to show them I have the same amount of skills that they do, and at the same time I have to trust them, and they have to trust me,” says Villavelazquez, who recalls going to La Victoria as a kid, nibbling on cookies and conchas.
Villavelazquez was an intern at Elizabeth Falkner's Citizen Cake, eventually working his way up to pastry sous chef. He made the leap to Orson, before taking over the pastry program at Absinthe and its sister, Arlequin Cafe. Last fall, he struck out on his own with Les Elements Patisserie, which sets up a stall at the Thursday and Saturday Ferry Plaza farmers' markets. He's also been signing up wholesale clients, including Tcho, where he's begun making pastries for its Beta Store on the Embarcadero.