Photo by Tony Valainis
Kartawich and her four partners (brothers Jesse and Sam Blythe, Pete Schmutte, and Matt Steinbronn) did so during a time of unprecedented chaos and financial pain in the food business. So far, their gamble has paid off: Leviathan sold out of everything during its second weekend of business, and the bakers have been upping the ante ever since.
“We keep having to increase our numbers on the weekends because we aren’t making enough. It’s a good problem to have, especially during COVID,” says Kartawich, who logged time locally at places like Beholder (where she met pastry legend Schmutte) before taking the plunge at Leviathan.
Originally from Illinois, Kartawich has been baking since she was a kid, but didn’t venture into professional kitchens until after college. Everything she knows about baking, she learned on the job. “I worked my way up to mastering the croissant,” she says. “I’m the self-titled ‘croissant queen.’”
She is also the artist whose natural eye for a good image can be seen in Leviathan’s social media feed, which she runs in addition to her 18-hour days in the kitchen. At least she’s working with all of the top models. Leviathan pastries make for sexy subject matter.
Jess Kartawich’s favorite things: