When Sarah Mispagel, pastry chef and co-owner of the new Loaf Lounge, received a DM asking if she’d like to help out with an upcoming TV show filming in Chicago, she jumped at the chance to raise a little extra cash for her restaurant launch. She couldn’t have expected she’d end up a key part of The Bear, one of the hottest television shows of 2022 — and certainly the one best positioned to show off the work of a master baker.
“A friend of a friend reached out to me and said that they were looking for someone with serious restaurant experience but who knew cakes and doughnuts,” Mispagel says. “At that point, things had become really serious with The Loaf Lounge, and we were trying to round up investors, so I was doing anything for money. I was like, ‘I bet this pays, I’ll do it!’ I was so intently viewing it as something I needed to do to make my dream happen.”
Mispagel’s hard work paid off, with the Loaf Lounge, an all-day cafe and sandwich shop, officially opening this month at 2934 N. Milwaukee Ave. Loaf Lounge is co-owned by Mispagel and her husband Ben Lustbader (a chef-owner of Giant and Chef’s Special).
“Loaf Lounge is a collaboration of the food we love to eat and love to make,” Mispagel says. “It’s very approachable, with everyday options made by people who know how to make food really well. It’s a cute little neighborhood spot where everyone feels comfortable and everyone finds something they love.”
For Mispagel, her work with The Bear involved remote work as well as a few days on set, where she was on hand to help the props department reset in between takes.
“It was honestly pretty amazing to watch,” she says. “The first take they did definitely gave me some very real kitchen anxiety. It was hard to resist the urge to jump on set and start trying to bail people out, or at least throw Chef a Sharpie! It felt incredibly real.”
Mispagel says that the props team nailed the experience of what it’s like to work in a kitchen — something she has a lot of experience in herself, having worked as a pastry chef in iconic Chicago restaurants such as mk, Nightwood and Sepia.
“I really enjoyed looking around the set and storage areas at the props that Laure Roeper, the show’s prop master, had picked, and even without knowing where they fit in, I felt like they had nailed a few things,” she says. “I saw the Noma cookbooks and the bottle of Fernet in the props holding area, and giggled to myself. They’re very on-the-nose chef props, so I enjoyed watching the show to look for these items, and looking for other thoughtfully selected props that I might have missed when I was there.”
The show’s attention to detail paid off, with chefs around the world — including Mispagel herself — hailing it as one of the most accurate representations of the restaurant industry in TV history.
“It captured the stress, and the way a lot of chefs give themselves completely to their jobs,” Mispagel says. “Kitchen work is exhausting, intense, mostly thankless, not great paying, and a true labor of love. It’s hard to explain the nuances of it to people who have never been involved, and I think it was well captured. It’s amazing, and I feel so lucky to have been even the smallest part of something that people love so much.”
For your own taste of The Bear at home, forget the spaghetti and make Chef Mispgel’s own Pine Nut Coffee Cake recipe.
“This recipe can be easily modified to use whatever people have around,” Mispagel says. “Different nuts can be subbed for pine nuts in the crumble, and frozen blueberries or a ribbon of jam are a nice touch.”
Pine Nut Coffee Cake
For the cake
- 470 g crème fraiche
- 100 g eggs
- 10 g vanilla paste
- 230 g butter
- 400 g sugar
- 4 g salt
- 450 g AP flour
- 10 g Baking powder
For the topping
- 115 g pine nuts
- 100 g light brown sugar
For the topping:
Toast pine nuts in the oven for 6 min at 350° F. Cool, and robot coupe with brown sugar until the mixture feels just crumbly enough.
For the cake:
1.Whisk eggs, crème fraiche, and salt together in a bowl. Cream butter, sugar and salt together, then add the mixture to the butter concoction, paddling together. Sift dry three times and add in 3 additions.
2. Line a hotel pan with parchment, adding in half of the batter. Then top with half of the topping, following up with the remaining batter and the rest of the topping. Bake at 350° F until golden brown, with the cake pulling away from the pans slightly. It should spring back when touched.
3. Enjoy — Carmie’s signature white T-shirt and apron encouraged, but not required.
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