Chef Spotlight: Orly Gottesman of MODERN BREAD AND BAGEL and ARBA Gluten-Free Restaurant on the Upper West Side
Orly Gottesman was driven to develop a gluten free baking product that didn't compromise on taste because of her food-centric husband living with celiac disease. Originally from New Jersey and a graduate of NYU, Orly and her husband were living in Paris when Orly took an apprenticeship at Parisian pastry shop. The initial motivation was hoping to learn some of the classics so she could re-create them for her husband.... minus the gluten. But it was there she discovered her passion for baking, and Orly went on to receive her formal patisserie training from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute in Sydney, Australia.
Orly pursued an independent study on gluten-free baking and worked closely with the school's head pastry chef to figure out how different flour blends work for different products. After several years of research, Orly was able to decipher how to create delicious tasting baked goods, breads, and pastries using ancient grains, rather than traditional flour.
Orly created a line of specialty gluten-free flour blends called "Blends by Orly." After living and traveling all around the world, Orly has accumulated a tremendous amount of baking skills as well as knowledge of culinary delights from several different cities. The dishes on the Modern Bread & Bagel menu are inspired by some of her and her husband's favorite foods from around the world-namely Sydney, Tel Aviv, and New York. They have put together a wonderful menu and can't wait to share their unbelievably delicious creations with you.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Orly about Modern Bread and Bagel and her gluten-free restaurant Arba on the Upper West Side.
What was your earliest interest in baking and cooking?
To be honest, I never had an interest in baking. My mom used to bake chocolate chip cookies every Friday and the highlight of my week was coming home from school and getting to lick the bowl with the batter that she left for me. I never had an interest in cooking or baking growing up, but I always had a love affair with dessert and bread. Dessert meaning cakes and cookies- I never had a sweet tooth for gummies, lollies and candy. The first time I started to explore my real passion for baking was when we moved to Paris in 2010, when I was 23 years old. I started taking some baking lessons with a pastry shop owner in Paris and I fell in love with the art of French patisserie. I am a musician and an artistic person by nature, so the discovery of baking was just another manifestation of my artistic expression.
Who were some of your career mentors?
I have three career mentors. The first is Audrey, the French owner of the patisserie in Paris. After I took a few baking lessons with her, she allowed me to apprentice under her for a year and gave me my introduction to French baking. She taught me how to make macaroons, tartes, and how to professionally frost cakes and cupcakes. I helped her learn English and led all her baking classes for American groups visiting her shop. My experience apprenticing for her is what led me to consider a career as a baker. My husband is my second mentor. He was diagnosed with celiac in 2008, when there were still very few edible gluten free options on the market in the USA (but at least there were some!) Living in Paris was nearly impossible for a gluten free diet, as the basis of the French diet is bread and when we lived there in 2010, people looked at us like aliens when we told them Josh couldn't eat wheat. The only place you could find gluten free items was in specialty "bio stores" that were overpriced and always smelled like dirt. I always felt sorry for him that he had to watch me enjoy my brioche, baguette and croissant and could not partake in one of the most enjoyable experiences of living in Paris- the pastry! Audrey was not interested in gluten free items, so I would sometimes come home and experiment with gluten free AP flours in some of her recipes. That kicked off the start of my passion for gluten free baking. My third mentor is Chef Andre Sandison, who was the head of the pastry program at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney. and I moved from Paris to Sydney, and I attended the LCB in Sydney. I was the only student who was interested in learning about gluten free baking. During the second term, all students are required to get an internship. Chef Andre allowed me to do an independent study on gluten free French pastry development. He gave me my own test kitchen and gave me the resources to experiment baking with every gluten free grain that I had access to. Under his supervision, I developed the early stages of what is today "Blends by Orly" because during these trials, I realized that gluten free bread requires a different mixture of flours than gluten free cookies for optimal taste and texture. I would bring home my work each day for Josh to taste. As he has a very discerning pallet, he would be brutally honest with me. If it wasn't good enough, he would tell me to throw it out and start again - not the biggest ego booster but ultimately, his honesty was they key to a successful finished product. At the end of the semester, my work was published in the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum. After I graduated, I spent the next two years perfecting my recipes and my Blends. I will always be grateful to Chef Andre for giving me this exceptional opportunity.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
My culinary style has mostly been influenced by the different places I have lived and traveled to. In fact, Blends by Orly are named after the different cities I lived in and the culinary inspirations derived from each city. Sydney Blend Cake Flour is inspired by the cafe culture in Sydney. London Blend Cookie Flour is inspired by the biscuits at high tea, Tuscany Blend Bread Flour is inspired by Italian pizza and pasta, Manhattan Blend Pastry Flour is inspired by breads and pastries that are signature to Jewish NYC like bagels, challah bread, rugulach and babka. The menu items at Modern Bread and Bagel are an amalgamation of culinary influences from my favorite dishes that I have come across at restaurants in Sydney, Paris, NYC and Tel Aviv.
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a Pastry Chef?
Everything I do is gluten free. I have been doing gluten free baking for so long now that I forgot how to make regular gluten bread! If I can't make something without gluten taste like the real thing, I won't serve it.
What is your favorite meal?
My favorite food is eggplant parmesan (I especially like it when it has lots of breading). My favorite dessert is a molten chocolate cake. I have a great recipe for it on my website!
Tell me a little bit about Modern Bread & Bagel/Arba for our readers.
Since I started Blends by Orly in 2014, my business model was selling the flour Blends direct to consumer and wholesaling them to bakeries and restaurants. Since I was moving around so much, the prospect of opening my own restaurant/bakery was out of the question. When we moved back to the NY area, we came across a bagel shop for rent. The gluten free item that I make and am most proud of are my bagels because they are so authentic tasting. I always thought if I ever move back to NY, I would like to open my own restaurant/bakery so that I can exhibit the potential of what you can make with Blends by Orly. No one can execute my product like I can!
Modern Bread and Bagel and Arba is located at 472 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024. Visit their web site https://www.modernbreadandbagel.com/ or call 646.775.2985.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Orly Gottesman