Josie Weitzenbauer, proprietor of Léché, shows off the goods. Photos by Erika David
Doughnuts are suddenly trending in Montreal. All together now: “It’s about fucking time.”
Meet Josie Weitzenbauer, 27, pastry chef and owner of Léché — where her artisanal doughnuts, as she says, “elaborate on the whole comfort thing.”
This Ottawa native came to Montreal 10 years ago as a teen unsure of her future. After holding several front-line jobs in the restaurant business to pay her bills, she ditched fake-smiling and people-pleasing for a chance to work in the kitchen. Taken under the wing of the late Victor Medeiros, a former chef at Globe, she worked as a garde manger chef before pursuing pastry at Montreal’s ITHQ.
Peanut butter and jelly doughnut
While it would be easy to assume she became a pastry chef for her love of sugar, she says she generally abstains from the stuff.
“I don’t eat sweets at all; it’s more of a technical love for it. It’s much more precise, very scientific. You really only work with five elements: flour, water, sugar, eggs and butter. You get to know your bases, and then you get to create your own recipes. It’s a lot of fun to play with,” she explains.
She’s a busy baker, running the newly opened Léché and a wholesale/catering business that supplies Fou d’Ici with the majority of its desserts and Blackstrap BBQ with rolls and buns. “Trying to limit myself to doing one thing is hard. As a creative chef, a creative person, I want to do everything,” she says.
Still, she made the call to keep Léché primarily focused on doughnuts, despite her initial reservations when the idea was first bounced around.
“I was like, ‘I’m never going to do that.’ I wanted to be pretentious and make the most elaborate, super-expensive and beautiful pastries. But it grew on me. It was a throwback,” she says. Their culinary cachet also helped. “Doughnuts were something I knew the city was lacking in a big way. You go anywhere for a doughnut [in Montreal] and it’s the same generic thing.”
Weitzenbauer gets the dough going in her kitchen at 4:30 a.m. to produce the first of two daily batches of fresh doughnuts. They’re homemade, and handmade, to a certain extent — “I cut out all the doughnuts one at a time. If I didn’t have a mixer, I’d be doing the dough by hand.” She’s also committed to using all-natural and locally produced products.
“It’s all about keeping it real — real high-quality stuff.”
And if you need solid evidence, shove some of her doughnuts in your face. They’re all made with the same yeast-based dough — barely sweet, and light and springy in texture. Each one, filled or not, will set you back $1.65 (before tax).
Call me selfless or even fat, but I ate six kinds and gained three pounds just so I could tell you which ones you can’t afford to miss. Peanut butter and jelly (her favourite), white chocolate mousse and my beloved pistachio are killer good. Weitzenbauer doesn’t hold back on the filling, to the point where it splats out when you take a bite from the wrong end.
“You gotta eat it from the hole.”
Her words, not mine. ■
Léché, open Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
640 de Courcelle, 514-303-2200