March’s Foodie: Ilana November

A woman in a sweatshirt sitting at a table
Southern California native Ilana November of Milktooth

Tony Valainis

She may sport a Pacers sweatshirt on her day off, but don’t mistake Ilana November for a Hoosier. A native of Los Angeles, the recently installed pastry chef at Milktooth grew up going to Anaheim Angels and Dodgers games with her family, as well as crowding the booths at legendary Hollywood draw Canter’s Deli, where she always ordered matzo ball soup or a kosher hot dog. She also ate at home a lot, where the Shabbat dinners of her family with Austro-Hungarian roots usually included a chicken with potatoes and carrots or noodle kugel. “Whatever it was, it was schmaltzy and delicious,” she says with a laugh.

Trips to Indiana as a kid to visit her mother’s family in West Lafayette eventually drew her to Indiana University, where she completed an English degree (and was a credit shy of a second in art history). In fact, her first taste of professional baking came while still a college student, making bagels at the Bloomington Bagel Company. She went on to land some pretty uptown gigs, working in pastry at landmark Restaurant Tallent and later overseeing sourdough production at Amelia’s Bread. She left that position to help open Hedge Row American Bistro, but longed for a more independent spot.

“I’m also hoping to use more great local fruit for ice creams and pies.”

November found it at Milktooth, and though she may have replaced the schmaltz with butter—lots of butter —in the cinnamon rolls, hand pies, and croissants she bakes up for the morning crowds, you can be sure they’re just as delicious. More gluten-free and vegan items are in the works. “I’m also hoping to use more great local fruit for ice creams and pies,” she says.

Ilana’s Favorite Things
(1) Industrial mixer: “I dream of having my own Hobart mixer one day.” (2) Shapiro’s: “I always go for the corned beef or, if I’m really hungry, a Reuben.” (3) Whole-grain flours: “They bring a lot of complexity to what I bake.” (4) Bananas: “I’m not sure if ‘banana’ was my first word or not, but I try to sneak them into pastries when I can.” (5) Nancy Silverton: “She’s a female Jewish baker from L.A., just like me. She really turned around that city’s baking scene.”

Click here to get Ilana’s cake doughnut recipe with an optional sourdough starter.