She Was Named One of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs of 2023. Here's What She Does Inside and Outside of the Kitchen to Keep Customers Coming Back for More. Chef Isabel Coss of Lutèce details her personal path to pastry greatness and discusses the power of telling better stories on social media.
- Isabel Coss knew she wanted to be the best at whatever she did in life. Starting her career in Mexico City, her drive helped her move up through every position before becoming a star “postre” chef.
- Food & Wine named her one of the Best New Chefs of 2023, saying, "Though she has spent many years working in professional kitchens, she still has a childlike wonder and excitement when it comes to her work.”
- She says she has learned that social media posts are not about making money, they are about communication. Stories resonate with consumers — not commercials.
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As a young chef starting out in the tough Mexico City restaurant scene, Isabel Coss learned the secret ingredient to success: creativity.
"I knew right away that I wanted to be in the kitchen. I really like the pressure," Isabel Coss said about working at restaurants in a conversation with Shawn Walchef of Cali BBQ Media. "And I like the constant creative solutions to try and solve any type of problem.
No matter the job, she learned the value of leaning in and taking pride in your work.
"I was so proud of how good I was sweeping. I was so proud of how good I could wash a pot. I was so proud of how good I could do brown butter," she expressed.
The pride paid off.
"Going from one Capital of a country to another Capital just feels right," she said about moving north from the busy kitchens of Mexico City to helping run one of the best restaurants in the United States in DC's Georgetown neighborhood.
In the Best New Chef article, Food & Wine acclaimed: "Though she has spent many years working in professional kitchens, she still has a childlike wonder and excitement when it comes to her work."
Even with honors like these, Isabel is not ready to hang up her chef's hat. She knows this isn't the end of her journey.
Her creativity will continue to guide her on new paths.
Creativity to the Table
Lutèce is a "Neo Bistro" led by Postres Chef Isabell Coss and her husband, Michelin-starred Chef Matt Conroy
The Lutèce team's hospitality and cuisine has garnered much acclaim, including being named a 50 Best Restaurant from the venerable New York Times food critics.
"At this charming Georgetown bistro, the chef Matt Conroy's approach to French cooking is influenced not only by the progressive Parisian neo-bistros but also at times by the cuisines of Mexico, the birthplace of his wife and collaborator, the pastry chef Isabel Coss," the New York Times wrote in 2022 about the bistro.
"Ms. Coss's desserts are refined yet playful. She is infinitely creative with the mille-feuille template, but other notable creations include a Concord grape granita with black sesame curd and a honey ice cream hidden under shaved Comté cheese…"
Isabell and company have also been working hard on their new Pascual concept — a Cocina Mexicana that's a homage to her home country.
"I would like Pascual to also create an identity (like at Lutèce)," Isabel said about branding a new restaurant. "Where people who love Mexican food, or Mexicans who live in Washington DC, to find a place to have fun and eat delicious food."
Social Media Storytelling
When it comes to communicating with guests (and the world) through social media, Isabel believes in the art of storytelling.
It's not enough to post a picture of your beautiful dessert to social media. Why not also share a post explaining the origins of the recipe?
"Creativity happens when you're already making a cake, or whenever you're drawing. Something else will come, or something else will happen. So keep at it."
That advice is good for everyone, but especially for immigrants like herself, Isabel Coss said.
"There are spaces for you to be at, and especially to immigrants who don't have a voice and who change their name to get a job in a kitchen," she said. "They are the backbone of this industry, and I really think they need to know that there's a space for them. We're just opening more doors… They don't have to hide their name."
Social media helps everyone with access to a smartphone and the internet have a platform to communicate their story with the world.
Before moving to the United States, Isabel used to check in on notable chefs and famed restaurants on Instagram. It was a way to get a glimpse into other cultures and a way to learn about the diversity of life.
"Social media is a way to communicate with such a big audience and you don't know who's looking at your work," she said. "But if you put yourself out there in the most genuine way, I think people are going to connect with you.
"I don't see social media as a way to make money. I see it as a way of communicating, even for a restaurant."
Online and in-person, Isabel Coss continues to expose more people to the art form of the Mexican pastry.
"The most humble way to connect as humans is food," she said.
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