Inventing unique ice cream flavors such as ‘Nana Puddin’, Cereal Bowl or The Elvis is a job that most of us only dream of. However, for Lokelani Alabanza, the executive pastry chef at Hattie Jane’s Creamery, this dream is a reality. As if her job wasn’t interesting enough, Lokelani’s story spans worldwide, from Las Vegas all the way to Japan.
Originally from the Bay Area in California, Lokelani was raised in Oregon. After traveling through Europe post-graduation, she landed her first kitchen job in Svendborg, Denmark. What was supposed to be a six-week excursion turned into a six-month stay.
Upon her return to the States, Lokelani enrolled in the New England Culinary Institute in Essex Junction, Vt., which is the alma mater of Alton Brown from The Food Network. She completed several culinary internships in Oregon, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“Although I went to culinary school to be a chef, my first position after graduating was as a pastry chef in LA.” Lokelani said. “It came naturally and just stuck.”
Lokelani’s culinary career has taken her all over the world, presenting her with extraordinary opportunities. Not only did she work in actress Eva Longoria’s LA restaurant, Beso Hollywood, she opened her own hand pie company while working at Bouchon in Las Vegas. She was even a personal chef in Japan while her husband, now a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was stationed there.
“In Japan, I made it a point to shop local. I would go to local farmers market and buy fresh fish,” she said.
After finding her way to Nashville, Lokelani became the executive pastry chef at The Hutton Hotel. It was during that time that she learned about A. Marshall Family Foods.
“A good friend of mine started working at Homestead Manor and loved it,” Lokelani said. “Through that friendship, I met Corey King (executive chef at Homestead) and the rest of the A. Marshall team.”
In addition to her position at Hattie Jane’s, Lokelani is also the executive pastry chef at Harvest at Homestead Manor and plans to revamp its dessert menu soon.
“The dessert menu at Harvest has been so popular, but it’s been the same for a while,” she said. “I’m ready to shake it up.”
Lokelani says she most enjoys composing dishes. From donuts to tarts, she likes the fun and challenge of putting it all together. However, even though she enjoys working with desserts, Lokelani said she doesn’t have a big sweet tooth.
“I’d really rather just have meat and potatoes,” she said. “When it comes to sweets, I like bready things like bread pudding or almond croissants.”
On September 8, Lokelani will celebrate her one year Nashvillian anniversary since moving from Las Vegas. In her time here, she has had several stand out dining experiences, including a “really beautiful dinner” at Rolf & Daughters and a recent Sunday spent at 5 Points Pizza and Bar 308. While she’s working on creating sweet treats, she’s found friends here who keep her favorite foods in mind.
“One of my friends here often brings me Bahn Mi sandwiches,” she said. “I grew up around Asian flavors, so that’s a comfort food for me.”
Lokelani is looking forward to working further with Claire Crowell, COO of A. Marshall Family Foods and co-owner of Hattie Jane’s, which she calls a beautiful execution of Claire’s vision.
“Overall it’s been really great watching Claire’s vision transpire,” she said. Everyone walks in the door and says ‘Wow!’” She’s created this space that’s so beautiful, and it has been so great to witness. It feels good knowing that we can communicate, and I can experiment with different things.”
We are thrilled to have Lokelani on our team and look forward to seeing her creativity shine through on Hattie Jane’s Creamery’s rotating menu and at Harvest at Homestead Manor!