East County’s Aly Lyng went to Helix High School, growing up in La Mesa and Lemon Grove, received three culinary degrees from Grossmont College, and is now the pastry chef for George’s at the Cove restaurant in La Jolla, known as an oceanfront dining destination with one of the most breathtaking views in Southern California.
But this was not the plan she had visioned for herself. She went to Humboldt State University to study oceanography in 2009, and after a year decided oceanography was not her destiny.
“I came back to San Diego, enrolled at Grossmont College, and immediately knew from them that I wanted to do baking and pastry,” she said. “They had the culinary arts and culinary entrepreneur degrees, so I went for all three of those.”
Lyng said the pastry chef instructor at Grossmont slipped her a paste it note for a job opportunity at George’s and told her she should apply. She did not get the job. Three weeks later, however, another position opened, and she got the job.
That was 11 years ago.
“I probably worked for about a year before I needed my internship for school,” she said. “I already had a lot of hours in, so chef Lauri Sauer was able to sign off the internship.”
Lyng then worked for two years as a pastry plater at night, plating all the fine dining desserts, before being promoted to the pastry sous chef, working the morning production for two years.
“She [Sauer] decided it was time to leave and she asked our executive chef Trey if he could take a chance on me and promote me to fill her role when she left,” she said. “They trained me for six months before she left.”
Lyng said when it comes to baking, she loves to find a way to make it interesting.
“I really do love to make ice creams, pie, and things with a more homemade feeling to them,” she said. “Some of my favorite desserts I have made have been more rustic, like an apple fritter that looked like a little miniature bear claw. Reminiscent of something you would pick up at a donut shop. I like more nostalgic things that nod to that. We made a strawberry shortcake bar that looked like a little popsicle with an edible popsicle stick.”
Lyng said she started out baking with her family with sugar cookies and little things like that.
“I baked cakes for friends at high school. I did my senior research paper at Helix as a vegan baking cookbook. I came up with around 20 recipes that were vegan and made a book on how to make vegan desserts. At the time, I did not know that I wanted to be in pastry at all since I was trying to go to school for oceanography, so I look back and think that is funny.”
Lyng said her job is rewarding and many employees at George’s have worked there for 20 to 30 years.
“It is like we are all part of this big family,” she said. “It is kind of like home. We all take care of each other. Have birthdays and celebrations together. It has been a really rewarding place to work.”
During the pandemic, Lyng was able to stay afloat by creating Aly’s Pies. She baked pies from her home and sold them through Instagram. She said she sold 200 pies a week for four months. Lyng would deliver them herself, from Escondido to Chula Vista. Founder George Hauer and his partner Chef Trey Foshee took notice and had Lyng bring Aly’s Pies to Georges’s sister restaurant Sandpiper Wood Fired Grilled & Oysters in La Jolla Shores. Aly’s Pies is permanently on the menu, and it rotates every two weeks.
Foshee said George’s has three levels of ocean view dining, celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2024.
“Aly started as a very junior pastry cook under Lori Sauer, our pastry cook at the time,” he said. “When she decided to leave, she molded Aly to take her position. It was her first management position. It was her first pastry chef position, and she has been with us ever since. She is very technically sound. Her classic stuff is excellent. Her flavor profiles are excellent. Her technique is excellent.
“When she first started with us her technical skills were excellent, but her creative skills were challenging for her. But over the years, she has created her own palette, and her desserts are recognizably hers, which is the sign of any good chef.”