I like living in Erica Lee’s world.
Her universe is fueled by sugar, science, and a mind-blowing imagination.
She is the fresh new pastry chef at Four Seasons Atlanta where she shares a sprinkle of her sweet self with every work of art presented as dessert at the venerable Atlanta hotel on 14th Street in Midtown.
She uses torches and knives sharp enough to slice through a sheath of silk. But, her ultimate utensil? “My best, most trusted tools are my hands, heart, and imagination,” says Erica, a petite but mighty force in the Bar Margot kitchen.
Her signature technique is creating chocolate fans that make for beautiful and delicious finishes to any dessert. "The process is an art," she says, melting the chocolate to the precise temperature, spreading it into a large square, and then waiting until the exact moment the chocolate is soft enough to sculpt the wavy chocolate fans.
“I take my pastry scraper and quickly make clockwise pushing motions with my hands for the fan to take shape. It takes time to play with the chocolate, as it cannot be too soft or the shape will not hold and it cannot be too set or it will break,” says Erica who is studying for her Master’s degree in Hospitality Management. “Timing is everything, and it must be perfect in order to create a flawless product.”
Delicious? Most certainly.
For fall, Erica gives a nod to one of her favorite fruits, the underrated pear, to her, a versatile winter fruit. “Pears have a distinctly light, crisp flavor when untouched, yet transform with an irresistible aroma when caramelized.”
Throughout her fall dessert menu, Erica is combining pear with ingredients she finds to be complementary - orange, caramel and cinnamon for confections she says are “delicious, but never too sweet.”
I respect a baker who doesn’t lose sight of the power of sugar and approaches her craft with reverence and respect for the landscape around her.
Erica finds inspiration at home and all around her. “The vibrant flowers and botanicals that grow throughout Georgia’s landscape present us with rich flavors throughout the year, like locally-grown blueberries, peaches, strawberries and pecans," she says. “I find inspiration during my regular walks around Piedmont Park, where I appreciate the architectural skyline of Atlanta and the city’s diverse community of people.”
She follows the LA contemporary urban artist, Jimmy Pierce, whose vibrant pop-forward murals and designs have earned him an A-list fan club. “Positive energy flows from his smile-centric art, and that resonates with me. I admire the way he shares his art beyond the traditional canvas… the way he shares his art with the world. I craft my desserts with the same intent – to make people happy.”
What makes Erica Lee happy?
Outside the kitchen where she paints magical dessert landscapes and creates bespoke dishes for diners, her greatest joy is her family, who ultimately inspires everything she does. “My husband and son inspire me with their love and the conversations we have together when we share ideas and stories from our days.”
Save room for dessert, or make it your meal when you visit the Four Seasons Atlanta and you too will want to be Erica's friend.