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Pastry chef Lutz Olkiewicz dies


Long before gaudy, gooey cupcakes became America’s default dessert, there was Lutz Olkiewicz. During his 25 years at the Drake Hotel, Chicago’s grand master of sugar created delicate pastries, elegant cakes and intricately decorated tortes. Olkiewicz, who died Monday, gave thousands of Chicagoans many sweet memories.

The Tribune’s Margaret Ramirez wrote a lovely obituary for Lutz that celebrates his mastery of the pastry art. Skim through stories written about him over the past 40 or so years while at the Drake and then the Kitchens of Sara Lee. They describe a man with marzipan in his soul who baked some 8,000 wedding cakes plus quite a few confections for celebrities (Lucille Ball, Muhammad Ali and Pope John Paul II, though not for the same event).

He was an award-winning master of his art, but never a snob and always ready to share his knowledge and coach the less adept in the magic of sweets, whether it involved shaping loaves of fruit-studded stollen (his recipe was legendary) or explaining the intricacies of genoise, that classic French cake (to this reporter). Venture into his domain in the vast kitchens of the Drake and you’d be met by his intimidating figure: A stiff white toque perched atop his head, broad shoulders, snow-white chef jacket. But there was always a twinkle in his eye and wit to spare.


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