Having worked in New York’s top restaurants and for some of the world renowned chefs for a decade, George has absorbed the haute cuisine attention to detail and obsession with purity of ingredients, as well as the confidence for adventurous experimentation with flavors.
George was born and raised in Soviet Georgia and immigrated to New York City when he was 19. Dentistry ran in his family, but he chose to work at a kosher deli in Queens. “It opened up something in me,” George recalls. “Georgia has a big culture of hospitality.” He enrolled in the culinary program at the Art Institute of New York, graduating in 2007. George then earned a position at Jean Georges, the pedigreed Michelin-star monument to French cooking. But as advancement was slow, he left to work for a few other chefs before landing at Fig and Olive, a Mediterranean restaurant that was branching out to California. He cooked for six years to become corporate head chef, a title that required traveling to the West Coast and to France, where he was introduced to the region’s insistence on freshness. “That experience had a great influence on me, on how I cook now,” he says.
Before Fig and Olive, he met Luba at a Christmas party for Bergdorf Goodman, where she worked. Luba immigrated to New Orleans from Kazakhstan as a teenager before relocating with her family to Pensacola in 2000. She earned a degree in fashion merchandising at Florida State University, followed by an internship in New York. When her mother became ill with cancer in 2013, the couple felt it was time to head south. Luba’s acclimation to the restaurant was seamless, trading haute couture for haute cuisine via her aesthetic background. She also had a naturally well-developed palette, thus, her carefully curated wine and beer lists align with her intentional mise en place that trickles right down to the salt shakers.
Dessert is led by pastry chef Jordan Hewes. Raised in Kansas, Hewes wanted to bake professionally as early as high school. After graduating from Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky, she moved to Pensacola and joined the restaurant at its start. “George and Luba have not only given me a place to create desserts but also introduced me to a new passion,” she says.
Hewes’ display makes a stunning impression at the restaurant’s entrance. The triple chocolate mousse bomb is the explosive indulgence it suggests while the almond croissant and cheesecakes are a sure thing. Her personal favorite is the panna cotta. “The flavors are so crisp and vibrant, it’s the perfect summer dessert. Most people are hesitant, but once they try it, they’re won over.”
CHEF GEORGE LAZI
George Artisan Bakery & Bistro
1124 West Garden Street
Pensacola, FL 32502