From The French Laundry and Bouchon in Napa and Aziza and Citizen Cake in San Francisco to The Bread Factory and the Modern Pantry in London, Shuna Lydon’s list of employers reads like a “Who’s Who” in cuisine and baking. But Lydon (a 2011 New York Rising Star Community Chef), who already has more than 15 years of experience between New York, California, and the UK, isn’t in the business for name dropping. An ambitious and creative talent, Lydon worked her way from the bottom, simply seeking out the best to become the best. And currently in charge of the pastry and baking program at Peels in New York City, Lydon is paying back the pastry community that reared her, sharing her talents and leadership with young pastry cooks and chefs both in her kitchen and beyond.
Although not a self-professed community organizer, Lydon believes strongly in the back-of-the-house relationships that drive the industry—whether those relationships happen between mentor and protégée or between one kitchen and another. And while Lydon believes in social outreach, she’s never looking for her name in lights. She’s more interested in “guerilla outreach,” the kind of moment-by-moment teaching opportunities that rarely happen under spotlights.
When she’s not creating pastries, baking the restaurant’s in-house breads (both yeasted and naturally leavened), or developing the new Peels soda fountain program, Lydon is busying writing and taking photographs for her blog, Eggbeater, which was recently named one of the “Top 50 Food Blogs in the World” by the London Times. In fact, it’s a toss up as to which skills—her pastry or writing skills—are more recognized. “Memorable Fruit,” a portrait Lydon wrote on strawberries for Edible San Francisco was chosen for the book Best Food Writing 2007. Meanwhile, her pastry program at Peels got the attention of the James Beard Foundation, who nominated Lydon for the “Outstanding Pastry Chef” Award in 2011.