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Leigh Omilinsky

A Chef’s Calendar: How A Pastry Maven Plans to Let Loose This Holiday Season

By / November 16, 2018

For award-winning pastry chef Leigh Omilinsky, balance is everything. Sure, that’s true when it comes to her rustic, from-scratch desserts, but also for life at large. While she’s undeniably devoted to her craft (clocking close to 60 hours a week at restaurant Nico Osteria), Leigh knows the importance of carving out time for the things she loves, too, from gardening and spin class to family hangs and podcasts.

Leigh Omilinsky

And with the holiday season (and some of the restaurant’s busiest months) approaching, prioritizing personal time has never been more important for Leigh. “It’s vital to remember to take care of yourself, especially during the holidays, because it refuels us so that we, in the hospitality industry, can take care of others,” she says. “I’m a big a proponent of self-care, whether it’s working out, therapy, or time in front of SVU [Law & Order: Special Victims Unit].” Here, the Chicago native shares with us five upcoming events she’s most amped for in the months ahead.


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Wicker Park Bucktown Chillfest

November 24

Holiday shopping can be tough when you’re strapped for time, so when an opportunity arises to shop several storefronts in one day, Leigh springs for it. Case in point is this Bucktown and Wicker Park happening — a free music festival featuring tunes from more than 60 musicians and wares from some of the neighborhoods’ best shops. “I always enjoy buying gifts from small local businesses, and I think it’s a really important way to support the community,” she says. “I haven’t been to this event before, but it sounds like a fun way to hear some live music while getting a little holiday shopping done.”


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Live Spanish Flamenco at 90 Miles

November 27

Flamenco dancing, paella, and plenty of red wine await at this event, which will showcase some of Spain’s finest culture fixes over the course of the evening — offering a particularly good time for two. “The end of the year is a pretty hectic time to work in the restaurant industry, and my fiancé and I make it a priority to schedule a date night once in a while, just the two of us,” says Leigh, who notes that the evening will likely serve as research, too. “It’s helpful to try different cuisines that I might be able to incorporate into my own cooking.”


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GMBO Fest at The Promontory

December 1

This restaurant-meets-music venue is situated in the heart of Hyde Park, an exciting but often overlooked area on the city’s South Side — and for Leigh, it’s time to change that. “Hyde Park has an awesome food scene that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves,” she says. “What’s great about Chicago is the character of each neighborhood, and coming here is a good way to support my fellow chefs.” For her, that means a stop at the restaurant’s GMBO Fest, an all-out feast offering the best gumbo from various restaurants in town. “The Promontory is one of my favorite spots in the area, and, since this is the first time they’ve held this event, I’m really looking forward to checking it out.”


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BrewLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

December 6

This annual event is one of Chicagoans’ favorite ways to get in the holiday spirit, thanks to bright lights, craft brews, and, of course, ample animal sightings. The fact that it’s on a weeknight as opposed to a weekend only helps in getting the busy chef there. “Having the opportunity to sample dozens of craft and seasonal beers while enjoying these lights is a fun and festive way to kick off the holiday season,” says Leigh. Another big draw for her? Its charitable cause: Proceeds from the event help to keep the zoo open (and free) to the public year-round.


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35th Annual Music Box Christmas Double Feature & Sing-A-Long

December 7–24

Holiday fanatics rejoice every year at the arrival of this tradition, when the Music Box Theatre hosts a double feature of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas” and invites attendees to sing their hearts out (ugly sweaters encouraged). It’s one of Leigh’s surefire ways to go from work to winter mode, stat. “I love rounding up a group of friends or family for this special event,” she says. “These classics are the perfect way to really embrace the season, and it’s so much fun to make a whole afternoon of it!”

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Nicole Schnitzler is a freelance writer who covers​ ​food, drink, ​travel, entertainment, and ​lifestyle. When she is not planning her next adventure​​, she can be found​ ​commuting between bakeries, yoga classes,​ live music shows, and libraries ​in her hometown of ​​Chicago. She is most comfortable with a pen in one hand and a fork in the other. Nicole is also the founder of Doors Open Dishes, an initiative committed to keeping the doors open to the group homes and workshops of individuals with special needs by partnering with chefs and restaurants across the city. Follow her on Twitter (@Write_To_Eat) or on Instagram (@WriteToEat).

More articles by Nicole Schnitzler



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