Les Elements: Luis Villavelazquez Tweaks Classic French Patisserie

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Meredith Brody
Luis Villavelazquez at Arlequin's stall in Ferry Plaza last year.
​Ex-Absinthe/Arlequin pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez is launching what he calls "a French patisserie for the modern palate" at Ferry Plaza this Saturday. Les Elements will offer a short roster of items ― many of them based on French pastry classics ― featuring Villavelazquez's signature style of incorporating lush flavors and aromas, many of them culled from the savory realm. The pastry chef left Absinthe/Arlequin two weeks ago, and has been focusing on securing production space and reaching out to wholesale clients.

Villavelazquez tells SFoodie the heart of Les Elements will be croissants, profiteroles, tarts, and cakes like pithiviers, filtered through his imagination. "I want to use every interesting flavor I use on my desserts in everything," he says. Saturday, for instance, Villavelazquez plans to offer profiteroles filled with blood cedarwood ganache, topped with glazed pear. Also Darjeeling tea, quince, and black pepper cupcakes, and what he calls "a really awesome 100-percent Valrhona chocolate chip cookie." Blood cedarwood? "It's just this oil of the blood cedarwood tree ― it smells like roasted coffee grounds and bitter chocolate."

As for production, Villavelazquez is starting small. He and a friend will be doing all the baking and assembling, from a commercial kitchen he can't yet name. He'll have maybe four items this week, maybe six or seven the week after. "I'm doing this extremely methodically," he says, "having a limited amount of items but also making sure that I'm not kicking myself in the butt financially and then overproducing."

Villavelazquez became pastry chef of Absinthe and for its sister café Arlequin in April 2009. "It was just getting too crazy at Arlequin," he says. "There were too many baked goods, we couldn't house enough product. And I think the success of that for me was knowing that my ideas were being liked a lot." Arlequin discontinued its stall at Ferry Plaza when Villavelazquez left.

Les Elements plans to set up at both the Thu. and Sat. Ferry Plaza markets.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com
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