UCLA Spotlight


Chefs Hans Elbel and Andre Lehmann

  • By Wendy Soderburg, Greg Helfand
  • Published Dec 1, 2002 8:00 AM

When UCLA students sit down to meals in any residence hall dining room, they can bite into yummy homemade doughnuts just out of a sizzling vat of oil. Or a variety of fresh-out-of-the-oven muffins, cinnamon rolls, fruit-filled Danish, croissants, scones, cookies and pizza made from scratch.

What they don't know is that these mouth-watering baked goods are made on campus every night while they sleep.

The people responsible for these delectable delights are not the Keebler elves but Hans Elbel and André Lehmann, two professionally trained chefs who supervise a staff of seven full-time bakers in preparing 250 dozen cookies, 40 cakes, 60 dozen doughnuts and seemingly endless pans of brownies, lemon bars, focaccia and corn bread each day. They provide nearly all of the baked goods for 15,000 student meals daily, and they manage to do it all well before their bleary-eyed clientele stumble into their 8 a.m. classes.

"I don't mind the hours at all," says Elbel after completing his midnight-to-11 a.m. shift. Lehmann is not quite as enthusiastic. "You never quite get used to it," he admits.

The younger of the two, Lehmann graduated from a government-run culinary school in Basel, Switzerland, in 1980 and traveled the world. During a visit to Santa Monica in 1987, Lehmann met his future wife, Elizabeth, whom he married in 1989. The couple lived in Switzerland for several years, returning to Los Angeles to open a bistro.

"But then all the real-estate prices went up, and the good locations got expensive," says Lehmann, with a laugh. So he became senior food service manager at UCLA in 2000.

The German-born Elbel graduated from culinary school in 1959 and came to the United States the following year at the age of 19. He worked as a pastry cook at the Plaza Hotel in New York, then at Hostess Cakes and Wolf's Pastry Shops in Connecticut. In 1976, he arrived in San Pedro, Calif., to work for Bavarian Specialty Foods. He also owned a bakery, "Bread of France," in Anaheim. After selling the bakery in 1990, Elbel worked at UC Irvine until he was asked to set up a brand-new bakery for UCLA's Dining Services in 1996.

"For the amount of food they put out, the satisfaction rate is phenomenal," says Craig St. Louis, assistant director of dining services. "In our last customer survey, we were over 95% in customer satisfaction."

Their secret? Teamwork.

"André and I work very well together," Elbel says. "The whole bakery is a team; it's not just the management. If we didn't work as a team, it would all fall apart."