Lula Cafe, the Logan Square pioneer and one of Chicago’s essential restaurants, has a new executive pastry chef, a name that industry observers should recognize. Emily Spurlin, the former pastry chef at Bad Hunter in the West Loop, is taking over for the exiting Amanda Shepard. Shepard had been in the role since late 2016 and is moving to Minneapolis.
Spurlin spent the summer at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, Michigan, where former Local Foods chef Abra Berens works. Spurlin has also worked at the Publican with acclaimed pastry chef Anna Posey (now at Elske), and with Sandra Holl at acclaimed bakery Floriole. Now she’s working with Lula chef and owner Jason Hammel. He’s well-known for his mentoring, including helping the team behind Superkhana International in Logan Square.
“I mean, I always used to joke that he must have clones of himself,” Spurlin said. “No matter where I’d be — Lula or Superkhana — he’d be there, too.”
Spurlin was born in Arkansas but moved around; she was a military brat. She’s now a Logan Square resident and knows what Lula means to the neighborhood in its 20th year. She doesn’t want to radically change the pastry or bread program, but she’d like to bring more laminated pastries to the menu. Over at Bad Hunter, Spurlin made plated desserts. She may add a few to Lula’s menu. She’s working on a toasted parsnip cake with a chocolate and rosemary crema, pomegranate sauce, and parsnip ice cream.
Hammel called Spurlin when Shepard announced her pending departure. The two met about three years ago. Spurlin jumped at the chance to return to Chicago. She’s been at Lula for two weeks, and already marvels at how Hammel provides constructive criticism to staff.
“You get face time with him,” she said. “It’s interesting to see how a dish evolves from the start after his mentorship.”
Spurlin said she and Shepard have similar culinary styles and that will make her a good fit at Lula. Hammel gushed about both, saying Shepard should be in demand once Minneapolis chefs see her resume. Hammel lauded Spurlin’s bakery and fine dining experience and the way she implements savory ingredients. He also said she’s a force for changing restaurant culture.
“She has been a prolific voice for generous and empathetic hospitality — for our staff, our guests, and our friends outside the restaurant,” Hammel said. “So especially for this I am excited to add her voice to Lula in its 20th year.”