They're not just celebrities. They're celebri-lattes. And to Brian Leonard, aka Barista Brian, they're all art.
Celebrities are used to seeing themselves in the spotlight. But when Leonard's behind the counter of Calii Love (a Toronto-based cafe that also serves food and works international A-list events), the rich and famous get to sip on some coffee with a custom portrait made from frothed milk, espresso and food coloring.
Leonard told TODAY Food that he discovered latte art three years ago. He says it began with simple hearts, but his talents quickly evolved and soon was making miniature masterpieces. While some cafes have employed machines to mimic selfies, Leonard hand paints each portrait in only three to five minutes — just enough time to charm stars like Jake Gyllenhaal and Debra Messing (plus, dozens of others) before handing off a drinkable masterpiece.
"I’ve had some great interactions," Leonard told TODAY Food. "I just found something I love to do, and I'm so grateful that it’s come back to me. Just follow your bliss and do what you love."
Leonard recalled some of his most memorable encounters.
"At Sundance [Film Festival] in January, Jane Fonda came through and she was just so marvelous and told me I was very talented. I will always remember that," Leonard said.
"Nicole Kidman was pretty fantastic. She was just so gracious and lovely. She was just like an angel."
But impressing celebrities with their breakfast beverage of choice isn't what drives Leonard's love of latte art.
"It’s all done for one moment, and in that moment it dissolves," the 26-year-old barista told TODAY. "It's like building a sand castle. You do it for the beauty of the moment. I get to create moments of everyone I meet for a latte. You forget about everything else because you’re in that moment and fully present."
Leonard also loves painting animals (a Canadian goose is one of his favorites, of course), landscapes and replicas of famous works such as Van Gogh's "Starry Night" or Frida Kahlo's self-portrait.
If you ever travel to Toronto — or a celebrity-studded party in Los Angeles — stop by Calii Love to order one of Leonard's lattes (which start at about $4) for a custom portrait. Just be sure to snap a photo before melts into a regular cup of coffee.