Meet Lorena Ortega: The Ultimate Sweet Tooth
If you’ve ever had a pastry or muffin from Opals, you likely have tasted the genius of Lorena Ortega.
Lorena, one of our pastry chefs, single-handedly has transformed the menu at our confectionary since she was hired in November 2019, and it remains one of her proudest accomplishments.
“When they hired me here at Turning Stone, they showed me Opals and asked, ‘How can we change it?, ’” she explains. “Slowly but surely, I went through the entire menu of pastries, cakes, cookies, and other goodies and rethought everything except the fudge.”
She didn’t stop there. Once the native of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, worked her magic at Opals, she plied her craft elsewhere at Turning Stone Resort Casino, tackling pastries for the banquet department, goodies for Perfect Pour Café at Point Place Casino, and pizza dough for all the food and beverage outlets across Oneida Nation Enterprises.
(For those of you scoring at home, that’s more than 1,000 balls of pizza dough a week.)
Most of Lorena’s days start around 4 a.m., when she fires off goodies to have them ready for guests in time for breakfast. She says she doesn’t mind the early mornings because she loves to bake.
Lorena came to Turning Stone from Las Vegas, where she most recently served as assistant pastry chef for banquets at MGM Grand. She also worked at Wynn and Encore resorts, where she headed up the ice cream program and made more than 65 different flavors from scratch.
It was in Vegas that Lorena believes she picked up her signature style: She likes to add sprinkles, sugar crystals, and even gold flecks to make her work sparkly, shimmery, and colorful.
Years before Vegas, Lorena went to pastry school in Chicago and worked as baker for a school district in Utah and head baker for a Panera-style café. She started as an independent cake decorator in 1996 and had her own cake business for years before she received formal training.
When she’s not in one of our kitchens, Lorena dotes on her children; she is a single mother to four kids between the ages of 20 and 28. Even at home, Lorena can’t stop herself from baking. Her favorite recipe is arguably one of the simplest: Biscochos. These traditional Mexican cookies comprise ground pecans and walnuts. When she bakes them, Lorena still uses the recipe her mother taught her.
“I love to create, I love colors, I love flavors,” Lorena says. “Most of all I just like making people happy.”