Feb. 23, 2021

Pastry Chef Bria Taylor of Killa Cakes on Big Flavors, Being a Self-Taught Baker and Starting a Business

Pastry Chef Bria Taylor of Killa Cakes on Big Flavors, Being a Self-Taught Baker and Starting a Business

On the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast this week I have pastry chef Bria Taylor. She’s the owner of Killa Cakes, a Washington D.C. area cake business. Trained in graphic arts, Bria has no formal training in baking. In fact, she is completely self-taught. 

We discuss learning to bake, the process of starting a business, big flavors, and the possibility of a sandwich pop-up.
 
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Bria Taylor
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Bria’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/killacakes/
The Killa Cakes Website https://www.killacakes.com/

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Transcript

Chris Spear:

Welcome to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. I'm your host Chris Spear. On the show. I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. Their caterers, research chefs, personal chefs, cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers and all sorts of culinary renegades. I myself fall into the personal chef category as I started my personal chef business perfect little bites 10 years ago. And while I started working in kitchens in the early 90s, I've literally never worked in a restaurant. On the show this week. I have pastry chef Bria Taylor. She's the owner of Kill Cakes, a Washington DC area cak business. Trained in graphi arts, Bria has no formal traini g in baking. In fact, she s completely self taught. e discussed learning to bake t e process of starting a busine s big flavors and the possibili y of her doing a sandwich pop u , which I'm really excited by. I really hope you enjoy th s week's episode. And if you lo e it, I hope that you subscribe n whatever platform you listen t . And if you're on Apple podcast , please rate and review the sho . Thanks so much for listening a d have a great week. Hey, Bria Welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on.

Bria Taylor:

Hi, thank you for having me. I'm really excited.

Chris Spear:

I look forward to talking to you you make some amazing looking desserts, which unfortunately, I've never tried. But hopefully we can rectify that in 2021.

Bria Taylor:

Yeah, I will definitely I'll have to send you some stuff, I'll send you a box or something.

Chris Spear:

Everything looks amazing. And and I want to get into that you're doing some like mail order boxes. And before we like jump too far ahead. Like I was really excited to see that you're doing that kind of stuff now.

Unknown:

So right now I have bite boxes, I'm still so I launched them, I think a little bit ahead of what I was prepared for, you know, I have a background in design. So I think a lot of times I tend to start projects design forward, and I'm like, Oh, this is gonna look great. I'm so excited. And then I think I realized, like how much work actually goes into it. And I'm like, Okay, let me backtrack a little bit, redo this and then reset it out. So right now I'm in the process of like editing them and then relaunching them. So I'm thankful for thankful for all the customers that like ordered them and you know, their support. And so now I'm just like, okay, but now we're gonna come out with 2.0 and make it better.

Chris Spear:

Everyone has version one of whatever it is they do. I've changed my business models. 100 times. Oh,

Unknown:

yeah. Yeah. I think I do that all the time.

Chris Spear:

Well, let's kind of go back to the beginning. I'd love to learn about your culinary backstory. How did you get into food and cooking? I know that you did not go to school for Culinary Arts. So how did we get to where you are today?

Unknown:

So I have always loved food. Always. Um, I learned how to cook at a very young age. A really was like, any normal kid like breakfast pancakes, eggs, like the usual. But I was always with my grandmother and she helped me learn like a lot of the basics. And then I think I completely fell in love with food after that. And it's funny because you know, baking was not really something that I ever really did up until I was like, I want to start a cake business. I was like, Okay, well, I guess you're gonna have to learn how to bake. But food and just creating recipes and perfecting things has always been something that I've loved since I was probably like eight or nine and that's You know, I guess just Yeah, I just love food. Food is great. It's an amazing, I think it's artistic in so many different ways from, you know, creating your own recipes to plating to, you know, recipe books and everything. So it's just been something that I've always wanted to be involved in. And I think baking just ended up being the way that I got into just the culinary world in general.

Chris Spear:

So you went to school for graphic design, right?

Unknown:

Yes, art was another one of those things that I did from a very young age. My mom was an artist, she pushed me a lot doing art. And design, I think was just the best way that I could combine everything. I think when I started school, it was very just like, you know, what makes the most money? What has jobs available, and that was always graphic design. And you know, I fell in love with it. It is something that I still love. I think it's at the heart of most of my brands. But I guess you know, just design has just taken over my life. And it's incorporated into everything, from my cake designs to my branding, my website design I did by myself. So it's just food, design, art, everything. I've tried to just combine all of it into one business. And I think that's what chili cakes really is.

Chris Spear:

That's the best stuff in life.

Unknown:

Oh, yeah. Everything in one, it's the burrito of life.

Chris Spear:

I like that. Well, so you're self taught with baking? Where did you learn how to do all this?

Unknown:

So I think the first time I ever realized I wanted to start doing cakes, was on Instagram. I think it was a lot of Australian techniques is where my cakes kind of come from. I was following people like cakes BY CLIFF, Catherine Sabbath who are big pastry artists in their own right. And I saw them making cakes. And I was like, Oh, that looks so cool. I want to do that. And so I did a lot of research. You know, I have hundreds of cookbooks. I love collecting cookbooks. So I have God, why can I think of her name now? She's like the number one Baker, Christina Tosi that I was like God, why can I remember this? Christina toasties cookbook, I think is the first baking cookbook I picked up. And it was just a lot of reading, researching. I think I was on Pinterest for like 90% of my life. So just a lot of reading and a lot of experimenting and learning that cooking is not the same as baking. And I think that's where a lot of the trouble first started. When I was younger, my mom never let me bake because I didn't understand that. So you know, cake experiments always turned into house fires, or you know, burn cakes. That tasted a little too chewy. Because I was just like, Oh, we don't have regular sugar. I'm just going to substitute everything for brown sugar, or adding just different spices. My mom is not a spice person. She doesn't like extra flavor. So like nutmeg, and all of that stuff is like a no go My mom is like cinnamon salt pepper color today. That's it. So um, she kind of was always a person I experimented on. And most of the time baking did not go well. So finally, after I started reading a lot of books, I realized like, okay, I can't have the same approach as I do with food, where you know, I never really learned recipes, it was kind of just this is how you do it. Watch me taste it, adjust where needed and move on. This is like, okay, here's a recipe. You cannot deviate from the recipe, make sure you're weighing things properly, read the whole recipe first and then go into it. And so after a while, I think I still don't like baking like it is not my favorite thing to do. I just love the decoration part. But I think I have found a lot of love and fun into creating my own flavors and putting my spin on those recipes and really creating you know what is killing cakes. Now,

Chris Spear:

when I hope you take this as a compliment, but I see a lot of similarities between you and Christina tozi in the way of like, nostalgic flavors and fun and it's not just like a plain chocolate cake with a plain vanilla buttercream. It's got a lot of interesting things going on. I just made three things this past week from her cookbooks.

Unknown:

Yeah, her cookbooks are amazing. And what I really do love about her is that nostalgic feeling. I am a 90s kid so I feel like nostalgia has just been ingrained in me since the beginning. So I do always like go back to those feelings like I had one recipe or cake flavor that was like a peanut butter and jelly cake that use like Ritz crackers. And it was just because when I was younger My grandmother, we had, like 11 cousins. And so four of them lived like within the same area. So we would all come over and hang out at the pool. And you know, at that point, she was like a sandwich person, like, anytime it was lunchtime, she was like, Okay, what kind of sandwich do you want? I hated sandwiches. So she, at some point, she would just be like, here's a sleeve of Ritz crackers, some peanut butter and jelly, call it a day, goodbye, I'm gonna go inside and read. And you know, just hang around with my cousins. Like, I was just I wanted to recreate that flavor. And, you know, show people like, this is my childhood, like, this is part of me. And you know, the recipe didn't go over that, well, you know, people weren't really feeling it, which is totally fine. And you know, it's part of the fun and the experimentation of food. But, you know, nostalgia is a really big part. And I think it's the best way to connect to people, through food, at least for me, is, you know, like, here's my comfort food. Let me show you my comfort food. And hopefully I can bring up a fun memory for you and your past.

Chris Spear:

I think that can be challenging. I've talked about this a few times with guests on the show is because what you grew up with is different than what I grew up with. Like, I've had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I've never had them with reds. You know, like I grew up in New England, a lot of things I love are very regional, but you hope that if you do a good job at it, and put your heart into it, even if someone doesn't have that connection, they're still going to love it.

Unknown:

Exactly, exactly. And I mean, I just think food is just one of those things where you know, if it's good, it's good. And you know, hopefully they love it. But I think at the same time, there are a lot of things that people don't like, because I've had some crazy cake flavors, I think, Oh, I had a, it was called the notorious BMB. I still wish people love this recipe because it is one of my favorites. But it was a blueberry pancake style cake, maple butter cream, and then it had like a brown sugar bacon crumble. And people were just not feeling it. And I was like, it's so good. Like, just try it. And the people who did try it, they're like, Oh my god, this is amazing. I'm like, see what you guys hear bacon, and cake. And you're like, absolutely not.

Chris Spear:

Really, because like my best selling dessert is a brownie Sundae, and it has bacon on top. It's my number one selling dessert. But I feel like that's a very niche thing. You know, like you're either into it or you're not.

Unknown:

Exactly. And that's what I found is the people who knew about it, loved it, and the people who did not, and didn't get to, like taste any of my flavors. Because when I was first starting, I did a lot of like pop up shops where I would do samples. So you would get I get people that would try the different cake flavors. And they'd be like, Oh, I want that flavor. But you know, after a while, and especially since COVID, I haven't gotten to do a lot. So people are just kind of trusting what the cake flavor say. And you know, hoping that it tastes really good.

Chris Spear:

Do you ever have to do tastings for anything?

Unknown:

for weddings? Yes, I have had the occasional person, you know, reach out and just be like, Hey, I really want to try this flavor, can I and oftentimes I will. So I'll do like an a, like a cupcake assortment for them. And since I do weddings, typically I have them on hand. So it's usually fine. And it's like 25 bucks to try six different the six different flavors that I have. But oftentimes, I think a lot of people more just more so put the trust in the flavor, which is great. And then sometimes it can also be really bad when you know somebody's not extremely happy with how the cake turned out. And they're like, Oh, well, I wish I would have tried it. And I'm like, you know, it's it's one of those situations where if you do great if you don't happens, I know that not everybody's gonna love my cake. But you know, I can only hope that the people who do want to keep coming back,

Chris Spear:

but it's cake. how bad could it be? It's not like you have like chicken liver flavor. You know,

Unknown:

that's what I'm saying. You know, I think people are very specific about cake. I think with the cupcake craze and cake pops and all of that stuff. Everybody, I think has their own way of liking cake. I mean, me personally, I actually do not like cake that much, which I always think is funny. And a lot of people who know me think is funny because they're like, Well, do you eat your cakes? I'm like, No, not really. They're like, Oh, well why and I'm like, Well, I personally only like chocolate cake where like it's fudgy and you can't really distinguish the cake from the icing, like it's just this homogenous chocolate square. That's my favorite type of cake. But um, you know, I like to make a more fluffy cake and also it needs to be sturdy, because a lot of my cakes are taller. So I have to also have structure in mind. So it does tend to be a denser crumb versus a lighter airy cake that you would find that like a dynamic Or bakery. And you know, I think a lot of people don't understand that exactly is that you know, structured cakes and cakes that are made to be more of an art piece are made a very specific way. So

Chris Spear:

that's the hard thing about cakes, it seems like so much as form over function, right? It's like the fondant thing, like, does anyone eat fondant and think this is delicious?

Unknown:

No. And I've been fighting with myself with that a lot, because there are so many amazing things that you can do with fondant to create a beautiful cake and buttercream can only go so far. But on the other hand, I hate fondant, I think it is one of those things that is disgusting. You end up peeling it off anyway. So what's the point, but then again, then you go back to the artwork, which is what I love about it. And I'm like, I don't know, which like, it's one of those things where I think every other week, I'm like, should I try fondant? Then I'm like, No, don't do that. You're not gonna like it. So yeah, a lot of things are, you know, form over function. And you know, I try my best to make a cake that people will love and you know, fall in love with. And then you know, they want to come back. And that was the great thing about basic batch cakes that I liked is those were very simple cakes, where their flavor could really shine through. But I think after a while my feed came became just basically basic batch cakes. And I was like, No, I want to do more fun, artsy stuff. So I stopped doing them. But also I realized I was spending like two or three hours per cake. And I'm like, at this point, I could be doing like a really nice cake. So

Chris Spear:

it's the struggle that us creatives get into. It's the same with me like I have all these menu items that I want to put on and I'm super excited about and nobody wants to buy them. And it's like you spend so much time doing these things. It's like people just want like Philemon Jaan or strip steak, which is easy. Like I just buy a piece of meat and cook it in a pan and maybe put one sauce on. But like, I don't want to do that I want to do something creative and exciting and spend four hours making your entree?

Unknown:

Absolutely. And I think that's what's so great about food. And I wish more people would be open to just trying newer things. I feel like, you know, I feel like with the whole pandemic, I think a lot of people are more open to try new things, especially because you know, there's nothing else to do. I think food is become everybody's comfort at this point. I mean, you have a huge surge in online ordering, doordash delivery, stuff like that. So a lot of people are reaching out. And you know, every company is trying to be the next person to have every single restaurant that you could ever want. So I've also found that a lot of new restaurants are popping up and people are trying new stuff. tik tok, I know has brought on a lot of new food stuff of just like, you know, a lot of people are wanting to try African cuisine and cuisines that you typically would not see people trying. But there's like a whole influx of thumb around where I live, which is in Alexandria. So you know, I'm hoping that people will, you know, become more open to trying new stuff. You know, as long as like pricing permits, I mean, one thing is also, my cakes are much more expensive than, you know a lot of the places around here. So sometimes it's hard. And that's why I do like a couple things where I'll be like, oh, here, try all the cupcakes, or flavors on my menu through cupcakes where it can be a little bit cheaper, and you can just try them. So I try and find a balance between, you know, doing artistic cakes, but also knowing that there's also artistry in my flavors and the different things that I do with them. So trying to balance that.

Chris Spear:

Well. And you have a business I you know, we talked a lot about business on this podcast, because there's the people who are side hustling making cakes out of their house while they're an accountant. And that's fine. You know, but once you're trying to move into that professional level of like, this is my job, I have an actual bakery business. I mean, people still do it out of their house and don't need a commercial kitchen. That doesn't mean you're not a baker, but a lot of people are just like making one or two cakes a week and you know, they they can charge less, and it's not going to be as intricate or delicious.

Unknown:

Mm hmm.

Chris Spear:

So what would you say to anyone who maybe wants to start their own business like this?

Unknown:

I would say go for it. The time is now. I mean, I think everybody at this point is tired of COVID people are wanting to do new things. I'm waiting for one's COVID list and we enter that kind of like roaring 2020 era where people are excited and they want to spend money on food and just be a little more extravagant, especially with parties. I think I'm trying to like mentally prepare myself for the next couple years, where you know, people want those extravagant cakes and they want 360 or cakes or have parties for over 100 people. So I think the best time to start is now, especially because if you're bored at home, there's nothing to do have fun, make a business, it's going to start out slow. But you know, this is the best time to perfect everything and try different recipes and try new things and really create a solid, brand and identity for yourself to put out there and just, you're ready to go. Once everybody's all good, you're set, get your licensing and go for it.

Chris Spear:

So what have been some of your biggest missteps or failures from the business side, like anything you would redo if you could.

Unknown:

So I think for me, a lot of it is planning, I am a very impulsive person comes from my ADHD all the way I love. I think I'm constantly coming up with new ideas. And oh, like, this can make me money. And oh, I could do this. And I don't make any money. And, you know, I think a lot of times, I realized that, if adding extra things to my business, absolutely will make me money. But I think in the end, it just puts more work on myself. And realizing that doing more doesn't mean more success. I think oftentimes people forget that you have to perfect what you have, and the business model that you want to have. And people will come. And because I think for me, I always want. I think there are times where I'm like, I'm not getting enough cake orders. I'm going to do basic batch cakes, because I got a ton of cake orders doing those. And they were fantastic. But then I'm like, Yeah, but you hated that. You hated it so much doing it. So why would you go back to that just for you know, a fix? Why don't you perfect and create really, really cool case that you're super proud of. And then the money will follow, the orders will follow. So I think that's the biggest thing that I have had to start realizing myself because also other people had told me that too. When I was at Pendleton, a lot of the times Ed McIntosh, who was the owner, he was always like, Okay, you've got all these like crazy experimental ideas. And I've loved that. And I love that about you. But you need to calm down, like pick one, go for it, really work on it, perfect it and then put it out there. And I was like, wow, I got it. I know what I'm doing. And then, you know, two years later, I'm like, No, he was right. And I need to really like sit. So now my focus has just been, you know, make really, really cool cakes that you're proud of, even if, you know, it's like two or three cakes a week. If they're really awesome, and I'm proud of them, and I can post them on Instagram, then I'm happy. And that's all I can really ask for.

Chris Spear:

You know, like during COVID. So many people were pivoting and I think it can be smart. I don't ever want to be stubborn. But like with me, I've always wanted to position myself as like a high end dining experience. And everyone's like, well, now you should be doing like drop offs and delivery. It's like for 10 years, I've been saying like I come in your home, I do this high end thing. The price point is like $100 How do you now say, well, like for $25 I'll come and make a lasagna and drop it off at your house. Like it didn't make sense at all for me to go in that direction.

Unknown:

Exactly. And that was a big thing with my mom, because I think a lot of my business centers come from my mom, she owns Oh my god, like I think at this point, it's like six or seven businesses and I've always watched her hustle and do all of those things. And her biggest thing has always been like, Why are you like your price points are at a certain point. And you know, they're anywhere from $100 up to you know, $1,000 depending on the cake usually $1,000 for like weddings. But you know, I'm always like, Well, you know, there's other customers that I have that you know, want something of a cheaper price point. And she was like yes, but they can also like if they really want your cakes, they're going to make a way to get them no matter what. And I think that's been another big thing of just me learning that the customers will come if the product is solid and you know you don't have to adjust yourself for your customers. And I think that's just a big business thing too is you know, adjusting your market for some definitely works I think it's not working at all adjust it and see where you can fall but if it's working, then keep going. You're gonna get your customers I think I'm starting to get to a point where the people who are ordering from me are returned customers which I love as well. Because these are people that know me know my cake style know what I like to do. And you know, those are the people who are like, Oh, you did my son's cake last year. Now you're doing my daughter's cake and my cousin's cake and my aunt's cake and you know, that family feeling of just being a Part of someone's tradition is, I think just the end goal for me of just being a part of someone's experience.

Chris Spear:

When COVID pit, what did that do to your business? Like, what's the past year been like for you?

Unknown:

COVID has been interesting. So luckily, I ended up leaving Pendleton like right before COVID happened. So that transition fortunately wasn't too too bad. In terms of customers, it didn't really fall off. I think it was just trying to figure out what's the best plan of action? How do I keep my customer safe? How do I keep myself safe, just because I do come into contact with a lot of people. So making sure that, you know, these people are wearing a mask, and they're being safe. And I think now, because of, you know, masks are a thing that like everybody's used to wearing, I don't have to worry about it so much. But I think with the customers, customers have stayed the same, which I'm super thankful for. Instagram, I think has been the biggest change for me. I love Instagram, and I used to be hardcore about Instagram, like I need to post every single day. And you know, I need to comment, and I need to get my follower count up. And I think that was such a huge focus of my entire career. And not getting those numbers during COVID was like, super depressing for me. And then I think I finally like, had to have a talk with myself and just realize, like Instagram, number one, their algorithm is crazy. And they change it every year. And every single time I swear, I got less and less comments and likes and stuff like that. And I think I had to just like, be like, do you know why Instagram is not the end all be all of your business at the end of the day, if you're still getting orders. Awesome. And then you know, just trying to keep up with, you know, doing boxes and mail order stuff. And especially because people couldn't go home I think for a while I did delivery for my cake for for my cakes for free. Just so people didn't have to leave their houses. But now people are just picking up just because it's a little bit easier. But I think the other thing was realizing that I think sometimes I have a guilty conscience because I'm making cakes for people having parties that I know have 20 to 30 people in them and not really being able to say like, I'm not gonna make you this cake, because I know you shouldn't have this party, and just kind of being like, you know what, I'm just gonna turn a blind eye. That's not my problem. I just need to make sure that I'm safe. And you know, hopefully they're staying safe and doing the right thing. But I think yeah, that's part of like, a little guilty conscience that I had that's like, oh, man, should I really be having this party? I mean, what can you do? Like not so long? The cake like, that's,

Chris Spear:

yeah, you're in a little different boat than I am. Because people were still asking me to do parties. And you know, as numbers go up and down. It's like, Oh, well, people shouldn't be having a 15 person party. You know, in December, when the numbers were people were looking for 20 person parties to have me come cook. It's like, who is having a 20 person party? And then, you know, for me, I'm in their home physically for like five to six hours. And nobody's wearing a mask. And it's like, Huh, like, that's not not good.

Unknown:

Yeah. So I can only imagine, like, at that point, yeah, you would have to put your foot down. I mean, that's your safety. So that is where it kind of differs is like I can drop off the cake and leave and nothing's gonna happen if, you know, they want to risk their lives. That's fine. But um, yeah, I could totally understand that being hard for you, especially because you have to be in their home and in their kitchen and stuff like that. But I mean, I think COVID is one of those things where, you know, it happened, I think a lot of people are recovering from it. And you know, I'm just excited to see what happens once the COVID regulations are kind of lifted, and people can start going back to their new normal lives. I say new normal, because I know it's not going to be normal, normal, but just that excitement of also just, you know, the bigger parties and people being extravagant and, oh, you know, I have extra money to spend so I'm going to spend it on this. So you know, I'm excited to see where it goes. But I think right now is just making sure that you know, I'm safe, my customers are safe. And you know, I'm doing the best that I can to stay within the regulations. keeping my fingers crossed.

Chris Spear:

I feel like we're getting close.

Unknown:

I think it's also hard because like you see other countries and they're like fine, and I'm like see we could have we could have been this but you know, no one wanted to wear a mask for the first like couple months.

Chris Spear:

There's still people acting like things are normal. Though like, we have friends who are like hopping on a plane and going on vacation this week, and it's like, what are you doing? Like, really? Well, I know you said you want to try to work on focusing on one or two things and doing them well. But do you have anything new that you're working on?

Unknown:

So I have, I think every like week, I come up with a new business. And I think that's more just because of design stuff, of just wanting to create new brands. So I have like, I have like six companies that I'm like, okay, because this is what I want to do in the future. I don't have like a timeline plan. But um, I really want to do catering. I do still have a love for cooking. And some, I think there are times where I'm just like I cook, that's what I did. First, I want to show people that I can cook. So I had this like sandwich company idea called like hot damn, and then it switches. So it's like sandwiches, and I have my entire menu set up. And it's like a bunch of different cuisines. So you know, I have some of my favorites with a lot of like Korean flair, a little Spanish flair, as well, I am mixed with a bunch of different things black, white, Chinese, Puerto Rican, but my mom was adopted. So I don't have any, like traditional ties to those foods. So a lot of time, it's just been through research and trying different foods. And I think my food and recipes and how I approach cooking in general, is kind of that same idea of, you know, just bits and pieces of it coming in and unexpected places, because I didn't really know where to put them in the first place. So, um, you know, I have ideas for that. But I think sometimes I'm also like, okay, but did you want to do this? Because you actually want to cook? Or did you just want to create a brand that looks really cool. But you know, I think at some point, I really do want to get back into the culinary world, or just get into the culinary world in general, I think sometimes I often want to go to culinary school, and you know, push myself further, and just see what else I can learn and what are the traditional things that I haven't done, and just kind of get that culinary experience that I'd never had. But I don't think that's something that I'll do right now. But definitely within like the next five years, I think I would like to explore that and see what but you know, if I could do a pop up for my sandwich shop, I would do that. Because that's like only like two or three weeks, and I could be like, hey, see, I can do this. And you know, come try it. And if they can awesome, but you know, I don't think I'm opening up a restaurant anytime soon.

Chris Spear:

Don't open a restaurant.

Unknown:

That's definitely not now. Not during COVID I think I've read so many articles about people who are like, don't do it. And I'm like, well, also, I think a lot of companies are leaving their kitchens. So I'm also waiting for like the return to come back and ever. There's so many open spaces, and I'm like, I'm gonna get in there, you know, when things go back to normal. But um, yeah, I think it's, I think it's a pipe dream at this point of wanting to, you know, do something. I think I'm bored too, is that that's the other thing. So I'm like, you know, what can I do today? I'm gonna make sandwiches or I think last night I got a craving for like crab rangoons I was like, yeah, I'm gonna make homemade crab rangoons make my own one time and just do that dinner. So you know, just getting to experiment and do a lot of like random stuff that I normally wouldn't get to do because I'm typically always working, or always baking. And now with kind of those off days, I'm like, oh, what can I make today?

Chris Spear:

Yeah, that that has been the nice thing. At least having the time to do that stuff. I did a lot of bread baking this past year. I've kind of toned it down a bit. But that was fun. I got my foccacia recipe down and I don't think like, I need a new recipe for that ever. I don't think like one and done. I love what I'm making and just keep going with that.

Unknown:

Yeah, I definitely wanted to get into like more bread stuff. Because for my sandwich shop I always envisioned that I would be making like my own bread. So like one of them has like a croissant loaf that I would use. That's actually for the Monte Cristo that I came up with. And you know, having just like a milk recipe or milk bread recipe, doing my own sourdough buns and stuff like that. So I wanted to like go into breadmaking and like learn about it. And I think there's so many components to a sandwich that I think I never appreciated when I was younger because like I said, I was not a sandwich person. When I was younger, I think it was just because it was like grocery store cold cuts. Swiss cheese. We did have Grey Poupon that was like my biggest thing was I always loved that stuff. Mustard even though it's really not even mustard, but that's, that's another story. But just like appreciating those components and trying to figure out where I can bring that same I guess excitement and uniqueness that I have with my cakes and how I can do that with sandwiches without being the same person that's like I make every single item from scratch because I so admire those companies and, you know, a lot of though like old style, diners that do everything from scratch, but they have so many people that they hire, and like, I'm one person, I tend to think that I can do all of this by myself, and I know that I can. So you know, I think, I don't know, I think it's just, you know, trying different things, seeing what I like, but also enjoying the time to experiment, even if it doesn't really go anywhere. But just like making these things for the fun of it.

Chris Spear:

If you could go work with anyone for one day, who would it be like hypothetically, it doesn't have to be realistic? Is there anyone you'd really love to just go learn from?

Unknown:

So like, part of me wants to say Gordon Ramsay, because I just really like his like, no bullshit style approach to cooking. I think it's fascinating. I think the other part of me would want to I don't know, like, I think I'd want to hang out with Christina Tosi for a day because I just want to see like what her brain is like, and just really pick at it. I think probably Christina Tosi, I think that would be like my number one just so I can get, because I know she does some savory stuff as well. But she also does some baking. So I'd like kind of just want to see like, what her day to day life is like and how her brain works.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, that's a good pic. I'd really be interested in following her for a day or two,

Unknown:

then there's also David Chang. I think there are a lot of great people that I would want to work with. I think there's just like, it's just picking one from each category of food and just trying everything and learning everything that I can.

Chris Spear:

I've just been going through the original Momofuku cookbook literally like the past three days, because I forgot how good it was, you know, now we have so many cookbooks, but that came out like 10 years ago or something and you just forget it. It's like, Wow, there was some really awesome stuff in there that I've never made. And they're not that hard. And I just pulled that off the shelf as like, why am I not making this like, all the time?

Unknown:

Yeah, his cookbook is beautiful. And I think it's very, I like that it's so simplistic and its nature, but it has such an impactful flavor. And I think the other great thing is a lot of the ingredients just in Korean food, but just a lot of international foods are so readily available now. Where you know, five, six years ago, a lot of these things were not

Chris Spear:

exactly I think that's what it is, is there's a recipe and it's like pureed kimchi that you toss an apples and then you serve it on like labneh that has maple syrup like nobody had labneh seven, eight years ago, I didn't know how to make it even though it's stupid easy. Kimchi. Like you had to find a special agent grocery store now my Wegmans a mile away has like eight kinds of kimchi. It's ridiculous. Exactly.

Unknown:

And, you know, I think part of it is really great because I love that a lot of these things are so readily available, especially for me because I didn't go to culinary school. So a lot of these things are coming from cookbooks and learning and just making sure that I can have these things but also because I came from a very like white household. My mom was adopted by a white family and it was amazing. But like I did not know about anything outside of that or just you know, culinarily interesting or really anything because my grandma's spice cabinet I think consisted of a lot of spices but like you knew the ones that she didn't use because they were never open and that was like 90% of them but then like looking back I was always like oh but that's so interesting because like I know this from my grandmother's cabinet even though she never used it but that's okay. But yeah, just to be able to try new things like I got kewpie Mayo yesterday and go to john and just trying to incorporate some of those flavors into like my everyday cooking because I think our biggest recipe right now is my boyfriend and I we make like the KFC famous bowls. So we call them the GNB bowls because his name is Grayson My name is Maria and he makes Bom mashed potatoes. That's his job to have anything that he doesn't like you're making mashed potatoes. And then I have perfected this fried chicken recipe I think for forever now, and it pulls from so many different places like the chick fil a pickle brine But then pulling a lot of like Asian flavors and the actual batter incorporating cornstarch into it for a lighter crumb that you would find in most Korean applications of fried chicken. So I think it's just fun of being able to incorporate so many different aspects, not from just ingredients, but also techniques.

Chris Spear:

Fried chicken is a favorite around this house. I've been trying to get my fried chicken recipe down.

Unknown:

I think I finally gotten it to a point where I'm like, Okay, I'm done. But then I think I change it every single time because I don't measure it either. So I'm like, it doesn't taste quite like the last time but I don't know why. Because I don't write anything. Come

Chris Spear:

on, you're a baker, you should be logging everything and weighing everything Come on, what's

Unknown:

better about weighing stuff, I weigh my recipes. And I think everything else I'm like, I'm not gonna write it down. But I've actually been processing the idea of doing a cookbook for my cakes, which I'm really excited about because my idea for it is called the killer graveyard, where it's all of the recipes that I have perfected and created that just didn't make it to my final menu for killer cakes. So you would find the recipes like the peanut butter and jelly Ritz cracker cake, or the bacon cake. And then I was also just going to include my killer confetti cake because that's just that is the number one ordered cake recipe and I hated it for the longest time. So I'm like I have so many cool flavors. You guys pick vanilla with sprinkles in it like do

Chris Spear:

you like sprinkles? Because I hate sprinkles. I think they're like a fake thing. Like my wife pays for him. Like you go in and get an ice cream sundae. And she's like paying per topping. It's like why would you pay for sprinkles when you could have Reese's peanut butter cups or something?

Unknown:

Oh, great. So I am actually not a sprinkles person when it comes to like desserts, but they look really pretty on cake. So I always i have i think i use mostly fancy sprinkles. But the reason why I like fancy sprinkles is because they don't have that like waxy exterior that dry. Oh, I hate that feeling. I hate that feeling in your mouth where it's like that waxy like coating on the top of the roof of your mouth. So I use theirs because it's more of a royal icing type of sprinkle. But when it comes to like everyday sprinkles, I will avoid them like the plague. I'd rather have like peanut butter cups, like you said, or butter finger or just anything but sprinkles really

Chris Spear:

awesome. I'm glad to know that you're good person. I think I read somewhere that you're a comic book nerd. Is that true?

Unknown:

Yes. I keep comic book nerd.

Chris Spear:

So what would your superpower be?

Unknown:

God? Okay, so I think it would have to be mind reading. So I always want to know what people are thinking because I oftentimes, like, can't read people very well. Like I can read emotions, but like in terms of like, I hate when people try my food and they like I don't automatically know what they like it, they like it, or they don't like it. Or they like give me like, Oh, it's good. I'm like, but what's good about it? Like, what did you like? Did you taste this? Like extra, you know, lemony zest that I added at the end, like, are you getting that component? So I think definitely mind reading, but in visibility would be really cool too. But like, I'd only go so far, cuz like, I think I'd rather just mind reading because then you can also pick other people's mind reading and then if you really want to get into it, you can get into like, you know, the whole universe of being able to find people through mind reading.

Chris Spear:

So that's like some Professor X stuff going on

Unknown:

right there. Exactly. So you know. So yeah, I think I would say mind reading.

Chris Spear:

I just made a basket cheesecake last week and I wish I knew if people actually liked it or not, because I think people hated it. Have you made this? You know, I'm talking about the burnt cheesecake?

Unknown:

No,

Chris Spear:

oh, you need to google it was like I felt like the dessert of last year. It's a cheesecake that you make there's no crust on it, but you bake it at like 450 degrees and the top is literally like burned. And the bottom is like burned. I think bone appetit even calls it like bask burned cheesecake. And I love it. It's like like when you burn a marshmallow on the fire. So you need to try making this is really cool. It only it has like three tablespoons of flour in it. That's it just like a very light bind and you cook it dry in a springform pan with no water. So the outside top bottom gets carmelized but I made it and I gave some of my mother in law the next day. She's like, it's such a shame that your cheesecake burned. I had to scrape off all of the top and bottom and I was like, no, it's supposed to be like that. And I think everyone thought I was lying like I'm some bullshit Baker. I'm like, no like Google it. It's a thing like

Unknown:

what you're supposed to do. That sounds like my mom. That's something my mom would be like. I wish it was This way instead of that way, no, I will definitely have to try that I love burnt marshmallows, like to the point where like the outside is completely black. And then the inside is gooey. And that's how I make my s'mores. It's like all black and marshmallow. And then it has to be like cold chocolate. And then as I like, like the difference between the temperatures of like a really hot Marshmallow, and then the cold chocolate, which is also hard. So I think it's a texture thing. And then you know the graham cracker as well. Well, this

Chris Spear:

will be your jam then you got yeah, check this out.

Unknown:

Try it. I'm gonna try it.

Chris Spear:

Who is a unsung culinary badass, like, Who's someone who you think deserves some more attention that you'd love to shout out?

Unknown:

There's so many good ones. See not see that this is putting me in a weird space because I don't want to shout out any of my friends because they're gonna be like, Oh, so you shout it out this person but not me. Um,

Chris Spear:

you give me like three if you had to.

Unknown:

So there's rubia of Ruby scoops. I know, she just moved to Richmond. So she just opened up her ice cream parlor. And I've known her for a while. But I think she was always somebody that I admired. Because I was like, here's somebody who like knows their field, like the back of their hand and is having so much success with that. So you know, I'm really excited to see where her business goes. Um, Kareem Mr. Baig, he's been doing a lot of really cool stuff. He's been on TV, I'm so jealous. I tell him all the time. I'm like, I'm, like, really proud of you. Because like, I see you on TV and like, I want to be on TV. I think those are the two best ones that I can come up with right now. So good.

Chris Spear:

I just love sharing the love, because there's so many cool people out there and seems like, you know, certain people get so much media attention, and everyone, they're a household name. It's like there's a million people out there that people should you know, even if they're just checking out their Instagram, you know?

Unknown:

Absolutely. And, you know, I think that's what's so great about social media is that, you know, you can find people that you normally wouldn't. But I think on the flip side of that, I think it's one of those things, that's hard, because at the same time, the people who are doing really well are always going to do really well. And then the smaller people, like they really have to pick up momentum. And you know, because I remember when I first started Instagram, and I didn't have any followers, and just getting and building that trust was so hard. But fortunately, I had a lot of word of mouth within DC and making my cakes and meaning a bunch of new people. And just collaborating with people, I think the other big thing was just, I was always reaching out to people to see if I could collaborate with them, or seeing if I could sell my cakes at their store. And I think that's really the best way to get yourself out there is word of mouth. Because word of mouth trumps everything, you know, you can get a bad review any day of the week. But if you have a strong solid reputation, outside of you know, any Yelp or whatever, like you're still gonna get people like bad reviews happen all the time. And people are so quick to bad review somebody and it drives me crazy, because I'm like, you'll go to McDonald's and get your wrong order 17 times in a row, not say a thing and still go back. But like one Baker or food company, or whatever messes up one time, and you're like, never gonna go to them ever again. And you know, I think that's been a post like that has been going around Instagram, and I've seen it on a couple of my friends pages. I'm like, that's so true. Like, people are so quick to cancel, you know, small companies that are working so hard and have real people behind them. But you know, bigger corporations can mess up. And that's just normal.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, I've seen a lot of like, Oh, I went to this restaurant, and I had to, they said it would be ready at five and it was 530 before they gave me my food. And you know, it's like, really,

Unknown:

I think social media has given so many people voices. And I think for the most part people use them for good. But then you also have the people who I saw where are on social media just to trash talk, any restaurant and any turn that they can. I had a customer recently who was not happy with any of my cakes, and you know, I do take it very seriously. It is my art my business, and I care about my customer. So if you're not happy with something, I'm happy to turn around and try and fix it for you. But you know, on the flip side of that I am a business and you know, I have to have my business integrity as well and just make sure that I'm not being taken advantage of by somebody who just you know, was maybe not happy about like one aspect Have the cake but then wants to just, you know, trash every single part of it. And I think that's also part of just learning to be a business person is making sure that you fix what you can, but you cannot fix everything. And you know, every person is not going to be happy with what you give them. And that's just part of it, you know, they'll find a new place to go to. So losing a customer isn't the end of the world. But um, as long as it's, you know, for reasons beyond your control. I mean, if you really just gave them like a not good product, that's a different story.

Chris Spear:

But your service is not going to be for everyone. And unfortunately, you're sometimes going to have people who still opt into your service and buy your product, and they're not going to love it, I make what I think is interesting food. And I try and help people through the process. I just had a customer this week, reach out to me, and we did a menu proposal. And she was talking about, well, I don't like this, maybe this but if you change this ingredient, maybe that and in my response, I said, I'm going to be honest, it doesn't sound like the food I make is something you're going to enjoy. I like creative, inventive dishes, I like things that are uniquely mind, if you want chicken parmesan that you can get at a restaurant at 20 places in town, like, that's fine, but that's not what I do. And you know, sometimes you just have to say like, I don't think it's gonna be a good fit. Unfortunately, sometimes they still hire you and they're not happy.

Unknown:

And the thing is, is sometimes like I'll know, these customers, because like, you can always tell one of these customers because of how they email you. Because typically, they asked like, 45,000 questions before and you're like, I know that this is probably not going to be a good idea. But I got them anyway. And I instantly regretted it. And you know, I think it's also just making sure as a business that, you know, taking every single order does not make you a successful business. I think it's making sure you're picking the orders that showcase your work. And you know how you work? Because I think that was another big thing of just being a younger business and not exactly knowing, I guess what I wanted to portray myself as in my business as so I was taking every single thing that I could even if it wasn't my style, or I would have people send me pictures of other people's cakes. And I'm like, Yeah, I couldn't make that. And I'm like, I could make that. But like, that's boring. And that's not really my work. And I'm just replicating something. And I think that's been a big goal for me in the future is making sure that people understand this is my vision. These are my cakes, I'll absolutely you know make you what your theme is. But you know, if you send me another person's picture, that's just an automatic No, like, go to that person. If you really liked their cake, or you know, bring it to your local Baker, and I'm sure any grocery store will be happy to do it, but I make my style cakes and of course that changes and I'm happy to make a cake that I made in the past but I'm just I like picking things that push me to my limit, I think. I guess the thing that I want to try now is sculpted cakes. Um, so less of like my tall ornate cakes and more of just actually making character cakes. I love doing like anime themed cakes. So I just made Naruto cupcakes the other day and you know, cupcakes or cupcakes, so I was like, Okay, I'm gonna try my best. But um, I have a Studio Ghibli cake. So I'm making a Totoro cake. And I really want to make a sculpted Totoro with like mushrooms and the little Sprite. So I'm like I have to, I'm gonna actually make this cake a sculpted cake and not make a Totoro style cake in my style. So I'm really excited about that. And I'm like, Okay, I gotta start this like two weeks ahead because I have to sculpt everything. But also realizing there you can also make like a cake two months in advance. So it's for March, so I have to wait a little bit, but I'm like, Oh, you can make the little characters out of like modeling chocolate and have those prepared. So just trying to push my cake business into doing like more high end stuff and just more artistic stuff. And just trying it and see where it goes.

Chris Spear:

I hope I get to see some of those cakes. You're gonna take pictures and post them

Unknown:

right Oh definitely. Definitely the total cake. I think I'm most excited I've ever been for a cake. And then the Naruto cupcakes I did post but my favorite there was only one cupcake that I was really hyped about and it was a ramen cake little cupcake. So I sat like for three hours the night before and made like little eggs and you know little pieces of like pork roll and out of like, God I think it was just my favorite candies to work with With our What are they called? Starburst? Is that what they're called? Are they called Starburst Starburst

Chris Spear:

or like the chewy rectangular or square ones?

Unknown:

I could not remember what they're called. But yes, Starburst are the best because they like you can mix them and create different colors, and they hold their shape really well. Another one is air heads. And like the just the just coffee in general is great to work with. But yeah, but just creating like those different things and just trying to figure out what, what makes it look the best and the most realistic without it being you know, real, obviously,

Chris Spear:

too bad. You don't have any creativity in you.

Unknown:

I know, you know, it's hard, so hard. No, that's like my favorite part is creating stuff and molding stuff. And just, you know, really actually putting that artistic background that I have into sculpting and molding and stuff like that. I think I even wanted to go back for a master's degree in sculpture. Probably not going to actually do that. But um, I always like float with the idea of going back for like a different aspect of art, besides design and more of like a traditional art background.

Chris Spear:

That seems like that would be a lot.

Unknown:

Yeah, yeah, it's a lot. And I'm probably not going to do it. Again. I always am like, I'm gonna do this, and this and this, and this, and this, and this and this. And I'm like, Yeah, no, no, you're not stopping. You're excited and you want to do it. But realistically, you aren't. So you know, it's just working with it while I can practicing. And I'm hoping that I get a cake that allows me to apply those applications. But I think it's also hard because practicing with food, I think is a lot more expensive than people think. Because oftentimes, like I'm not going to eat a whole cake by myself. I can't really like go and bring the cake to my neighbors right now. Because everybody's like, Oh, COVID I don't. I'm not gonna eat that. I don't know where it came from.

Chris Spear:

Yeah, when I made that cheesecake and made like 16 slices, and that's like, way more than like, I didn't even make it for a party. I just like, I want to make this and see how it is. And then you make and it's like, okay, it's a Tuesday and I have 16 slices of cheesecake. Well, this has been great. Is there anything else we didn't talk about that you want to get into?

Unknown:

No, I think we covered a lot. I had a lot of fun talk I just talking about food in general. So Me too. It's a great topic. And it's never ending. You could talk about anything.

Chris Spear:

Well, I hope to see you in person sometime this year. Maybe.

Unknown:

I know. I'm excited I have to add to bring you lots of treats and savory treats to you know, I got it. I'm gonna show you what I mean.

Chris Spear:

I'll definitely try your savory stuff.

Unknown:

I'm excited. Well, thanks

Chris Spear:

again for coming on the show.

Unknown:

Well, thank you for having me. I had so much fun.

Chris Spear:

Thanks for listening to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. As always, this has been Chris and you can find us at Chefs Without restaurants.com and.org and on all social media platforms. Thanks so much and have a great day. Thanks for listening to the Chefs Without Restaurants podcast. And if you're interested in being a guest on the show, or sponsoring the show, please let us know. We can be reached at Chefs Without restaurants@gmail.com Thanks so much.