Michael Laiskonis began his culinary career nearly 30 years ago in Detroit, Michigan. While pursuing studies in fine art photography, he took a part-time job in a small bakery and quickly realized that cooking – and in particular pastry and bread-making – satisfied both his artistic and scientific curiosities. This interest became an obsession, as each day presented an opportunity to learn something new in the ‘classroom’ of a working kitchen and set him on a path in pursuit of culinary knowledge that continues to this day.
This early education exposed Michael to gastronomic techniques and philosophies of the world’s greatest chefs, and he immediately aspired to reach for the highest levels of haute cuisine. He spent time on both sides of restaurant kitchens – savory and pastry – to hone an array of skills. His approach of blending contemporary ideas with classic fundamentals by way of art and science began to crystallize in these formative years. During his five-year tenure as Pastry Chef at Tribute, Pastry Art and Design magazine twice named him one of the Ten Best Pastry Chefs in America in 2002 and 2003, followed by the Pastry Chef of the Year honor from Bon Appétit in 2004.
In search of new challenges and opportunities, Michael set his sights on the culinary capitol of New York City and was hired as Executive Pastry Chef of Le Bernardin in 2004. Awarded Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2007 by the James Beard Foundation, his work also helped the restaurant maintain three stars from the esteemed Michelin Guide and four stars from the New York Times over the course of his eight years at the legendary restaurant. Alongside the national recognition of his peers, he has been featured in numerous web, print, radio, and television appearances internationally. He also began writing projects of his own; his work as a featured contributor appeared in dozens of periodicals from The Atlantic to Lucky Peach, as well as several cookbook anthologies, including The Kitchen as a Laboratory, published in 2012 by Columbia University Press. Michael was a nominated finalist for a James Beard Foundation journalism award in 2013.
Michael’s time at Le Bernardin highlighted the importance of leadership and mentoring the next generation of cooks, and as a means of ‘giving back’ to the profession, he sought to pursue new ideas in an educational setting. He was named Creative Director of New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education in 2012, tasked with strengthening the baking and pastry curriculum and professional training programs. Beyond developing and teaching an ever-evolving battery of technical skill, he hopes to inspire the next generation of young cooks by sharing his perspective of the creative process as well as the underlying drive and determination necessary to succeed as a
chef. In 2014, the International Association of Culinary Professionals tapped Laiskonis as its ‘Culinary Professional of the Year’.
Over time, Michael has come to realize the importance of pairing practical cooking skills with a scientific understanding of ingredients and how they function in recipes, as a means of continued refinement, problem solving, and creativity. One result of immersing himself into deep research on all aspects of pastry and confectionery, was his launch the Chocolate Lab within the Institute of Culinary Education in 2015, a unique platform to explore the history, culture, and manufacturing of chocolate with full ‘bean-to-bar’ capability. His work in the chocolate industry continues to grow beyond the lab, as a consultant working in new product development, and most recently, as part of a United Nations program to support and promote the aspects of terroir and development of chocolate manufacturing at cocoa-growing origins in the Caribbean, linking the entire value chain from farmers and makers to chefs and consumers.
Under the banner of Laiskonis Consulting, Michael has performed a broad range of advisory roles and development projects with major food companies, small food start-ups, and independent restaurants alike. He was a key member in helping develop the culinary applications of IBM’s ‘Watson’ artificial intelligence technology, has presented at numerous conferences from the Experimental Cuisine Collective to the International Chef’s Congress, and engaged in cultural exchange programs sponsored by the US State Department in Latvia and Lithuania. Michael created Récolte Dessert Bar in 2019 on New York’s Upper West Side, an exciting partnership that brought his work back to the city’s dessert scene.
Michael began his work with Les Vergers Boiron in 2011 as a brand ambassador - a partnership that has continued to grow through the creation of recipe content, demonstrations, and technical assistance for end-users. He is looking forward to enhancing his role within the company, building on the ideals of product purity, technical innovation, and forward-thinking values. He looks forward to standing behind the company’s 80-year legacy and playing a role in helping propel its vision and success into the future.