#lentenlovenotes Week Two: Kate Heller of Echo's & Leo's Bread

It’s no secret we’re head over heels for Echo’s, the new Mid-CIty pizza spot which opened last month as a joint venture between the owners of 1,000 Figs (Theresa Galli and Gavin Cady) and of Leo’s Bread (Kate Heller). Echo’s keeps things simple with wood-fired pizza, salads, fritti and “little things” like Dandelion Greens & Yogurt, plus (huzzah!) sandwiches on the lunch menu they’ll launch in just a few weeks. 

Kate Heller of Leo’s Bread is the mastermind behind Echo's pizza and bread baking, and she delighted us by taking a break from her full schedule to chat about her experience as a culinary entrepreneur.  Read on to learn how she went from NOLA transplant to owning a bakery with a cult following to opening Echo’s in just four years. 

 Kate doing her thing with the wood-fired oven at Echo's. [Photo by J.T. Blaty for  The Advocate ]

Kate doing her thing with the wood-fired oven at Echo's. [Photo by J.T. Blaty for The Advocate]

MHS: What did you do before you owned a culinary business?

KH: Before Echo's I owned a small, mostly wholesale bread business called Leo's where I sold loaves of bread and croissants around New Orleans. Before that I was a baker out in California!

 A selection of Kate's sought-after croissants. Before Echo's and depending on the day, one might find Leo's bread and pastries at  St. Roch Market ,  Crescent City Farmer's Market  or Kate herself serving at a pop-up at  Solo Espresso . [Photo via  Leo's Bread ]

A selection of Kate's sought-after croissants. Before Echo's and depending on the day, one might find Leo's bread and pastries at St. Roch Market, Crescent City Farmer's Market or Kate herself serving at a pop-up at Solo Espresso. [Photo via Leo's Bread]

MHS: How you were inspired to make the transition and start your culinary business? 

KH: When I moved to New Orleans I had a good foundation of baking. I knew there would be lots more to learn along the way in terms of bread and business so I created a business that allowed me to start small & slow and grow with the demand. I wasn't sure what form Leo's would take ultimately and how New Orleans would respond, but I knew I was ready for a next step and just sorta took a leap once moving here.  

MHS: What gets you most excited about your work?

KH:I love love love baking and I love the happiness it brings to people.  People love bread!   

 Kate's Semolina loaves with sesame sittin' pretty at Echo's Pizza. Loaves are available for purchase Thursday- Monday. [Photo by J.T. Blaty for  The Advocate ]

Kate's Semolina loaves with sesame sittin' pretty at Echo's Pizza. Loaves are available for purchase Thursday- Monday. [Photo by J.T. Blaty for The Advocate]

MHS: What has been the hardest part of being in business? 

KH: I think in business as in life some days are so good and some days are hard- it's trying to balance out the range of emotions and realities and to remember, ultimately, why you are doing what you are doing. 

MHS: What has really helped you grow your business? 

KH:The support of customers has been overwhelming.  Loyal folks and friends who show up every week and are still excited 4 years later.

 Back in 2015 when eager Leo's fans made a Sunday pilgrimage to  Pagoda Cafe  to buy bread out of the back of Kate's car. [Photo via  @thebrynstagram ]

Back in 2015 when eager Leo's fans made a Sunday pilgrimage to Pagoda Cafe to buy bread out of the back of Kate's car. [Photo via @thebrynstagram]

MHS: Talk about your business' relationship with private events? 

KH: I'm pretty excited about this deli pop up, curated coming up this spring! [Editor's note: Kate's referring to #LUNCHMEET, a curated downtown lunch event My House Social is producing in collaboration with the Contemporary Arts Center. Stay tuned for more!]

MHS: What's your favorite thing to cook for yourself?

KH:It's not cooking but my favorite thing to make is juice! I really love fruit and there is some pretty good fruit down here in Louisiana.

 Fresh Sourdough and anchovies at Echo's. Who else could literally eat an entire loaf to themselves? [Photo via  Echo's Pizza ] 

Fresh Sourdough and anchovies at Echo's. Who else could literally eat an entire loaf to themselves? [Photo via Echo's Pizza

MHS: What kind of food have you been thinking about experimenting with/adding to your menu?

KH: Sandwiches! We are getting ready to open up for lunch at Echo's in a few weeks.

MHS: What's your ultimate goal with your business?

KH:My ultimate goal is to have a healthy business with happy employees that makes good food here for the city of New Orleans, and to continue baking and growing. 

 You inspire us, Kate! [Photo by J.T. Blaty for  The Advocate ]

You inspire us, Kate! [Photo by J.T. Blaty for The Advocate]

Echo's is located at 3200 Banks St. and is open Wednesday- Monday. Kate's loaves are available Thursday- Monday. Check their menu and hours here.

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What is #lentenlovenotes?

Six weeks isn't nearly enough time to focus on our favorite female-identifying culinary entrepreneurs, but it's a start! Each week of Lent, we're bringing you an interview with one of the lady hustlers we admire most in the New Orleans area.

Shout out your own entrepreneurial babes with #lentenlovenotes and we'll feature your tribute!

 #lentenlovenotes without you is like mushroom pizza without Shitaake, Oyster and Cremini- just plain cheesy! Be sure to check back for the next four installments. Watch out for reminders on  Instagram  and  Facebook .  [Photo via  Echo's Pizza ] 

#lentenlovenotes without you is like mushroom pizza without Shitaake, Oyster and Cremini- just plain cheesy! Be sure to check back for the next four installments. Watch out for reminders on Instagram and Facebook.  [Photo via Echo's Pizza