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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Café Selmarie’s New Pastry Chef Kyleen Atonson On Being A Working Mom, Learning From Owner

An award-winning pastry chef, Atonson just won the Food Network’s “Chopped Sweets: Winter Celebration” competition.

Café Selmarie’s Jameson Macarons and Kyleen Atonson, the business's new pastry chef.
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Café Selmarie in the heart of Lincoln Square has a new pastry chef with a star-studded resume.

Kyleen Atonson was recognized as the Jean Banchet Rising Pastry Chef in 2018 and has worked at Honey’s, Acadia and Coda di Volpe. She also appeared on the Food Network’s “Chopped Sweets: Winter Celebration” last month — and won. 

The reality-based cooking show pits four chefs against each other as they compete for a chance to win $10,000.

In November, she started her role as Café Selmarie’s pastry chef. The bakery and restaurant at 4729 N. Lincoln Ave. in Giddings Plaza is known for its pastries.

Owner Birgit Kobayashi, who began the business in 1983, hired Atonson to bring fresh ideas to the menu selection. 

“We are so excited to have Kyleen join the team,” Kobayashi said. “She is incredibly talented and intuitive. I’m looking forward to seeing how she can bring her creativity, experience and refined technique to the classic Selmarie repertoire.”

Some of these new items include Atonson’s Coconut Cream Cake, Nutella Cream Brioche and Apple Crostata, which were popular at Café Selmarie in December. Next month, Atonson will craft desserts for the prix-fixe dinner menu on Valentine’s Day. 

“I’m excited that I’ve been given the responsibility of bringing in a fresh, new aesthetic,” Atonson said. “I want to keep the classics and favorites that people have been grabbing for years. But I want to plug in some fresh deserts and ideas, too.”

After she won the “Chopped” competition, Atonson dedicated her win to the mothers who need to be away from their babies for hours because of work.

It’s a struggle she has personal experience with and eventually led her to take the job at Café Selmarie. 

Atonson moved into the Lincoln Square neighborhood in August and was looking for a position where she would be able to be at home with her infant son in the evenings. Through a friend, she found out Café Selmarie was hiring. 

“I was having some issues with scheduling at my job before I was hired at Café Selmarie,” she said. “I wanted to be at home at night with my son.

“This is perfect. It takes me about two minutes to get to work. I’m still breastfeeding and I used to worry about making sure I had enough milk pumped before I went to work. It was such a headache. Now my babysitter can just walk over and grab milk throughout the day. It’s really so convenient.”

In addition to the hours, her short commute and the chance to experiment, she’s excited to learn from Kobayashi. 

“I’ve seen tidbits of the way her mind works during the holidays. And I’m just really excited to learn from her many years of experience in terms of thinking like a businesswoman,” Atonson said.

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