Priory Fine Pasteries’s new pastry chef Jim Lazeration stands in front of the bakery’s two cases. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

If you’ve noticed something a little different about Priory Fine Pastries on East Ohio Street, it’s probably thanks to new pastry chef Jim Lazeration.

Lazeration started at the Priory Aug. 13. He isn’t one for sweeping reforms, but recognizes “you can always do better.”

In the month since he started, Lazeration said business has started to pick up already, thanks to three little, but important, changes.

“The biggest thing is baking things fresh,” he said.

In addition to making sure everything in the display case is hot out of the oven (or as close to it as possible), Lazeration has been tweaking some of the Priory’s cookie and cake recipes to bring out more flavor and fluffiness.

Eventually, he’d like to start rotating cookie and cake recipes more frequently to offer a greater variety, but for now he’s happy to have things consistently fresh and delicious.

The third minor adjustment he’s made is to focus more on customer service.

“Everybody works out front,” he said of the Priory’s bake staff. “[Customers] don’t like to wait at all.”

Lazeration is the youngest of nine children, and said his love of pastries came from his family. “We used to come home and there’d be seven apple pies on the table,” he said.

One of his sisters also used to bake wedding cookies and he enjoyed helping her. Because there was no pastry school in the area, he went to the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and graduated in 1990.

From there, he worked his way up to being the pastry chef at Monterey Bay in Mt. Washington, and says he is “somewhat self-taught.”

Lazeration’s vision for the Priory is to have so many customers the line goes out the door, and is willing to work to get there.

The most challenging item for him to bake is wedding cakes, because that’s the item he’s had the least experience with.

So far, he said the Priory’s best-selling item is the carrot cake cupcakes. Those, along with all the cupcakes, are baked fresh, from scratch, every other day.

Cookie dough, on the other hand, is made in large batches, frozen, and then baked fresh at least once a day, but usually twice. Knowing how many cookies to bake each day, or whether or not they should bake more if they run out, is another challenge of running a bakery, Lazeration said.

Regardless of how much or how little they bake, he emphasized the need to keep it fresh, and to work hard to make sure the Priory constantly improves.