Have you had a culinary mentor, and if so, what is the most meaningful lesson learned from her/him?
All my past employers have mentored me. The most prominent was Pastry Chef Leena Hung at Wente vineyards in Livermore, California. At the time, I thought she was so tough, but I learned it was from a place of caring. I learned that “Yes, Chef” was the right response in the moment. When a hot tray is coming out of the oven, it’s not a time to question the chef. She enabled me to develop structure in my career. It’s carried me from my fine dining career through to my role as an entrepreneur.
Have there been unexpected twists or turns in your culinary life that have changed your career direction?
The biggest shift came when I was at Bouchon in Yountville. There was an earthquake that destroyed my apartment and prompted me to move to NYC. I was offered a lateral move to Bouchon at Rockefeller Center. While it was the same company, it made for a change of pace and scenery. It also made for a new challenge in terms of being a new boss overseeing a new team. I had really wanted to transfer to the kitchen at Per Se. When I hit a ceiling, that provided the impetus to make my move.
It ingrained into my being staying focused on my goal, no matter what. I had a craving to be my own boss, to formulate and execute my own ideas and also allow others to do so. I took the leap, not unlike other black people who have been making lemonade out of lemons for centuries. It’s just what we do naturally. In thinking about my own business, I saw a gap in two areas. Fine dining at home via subscription services lacked quality desserts. And there were not many women of color in leadership positions in the industry. I fused those two to create Blondery.
What is your first or favorite food memory?
It’s what inspired Blondery. A lady in my parent’s church in the Bay area brought us New Orleans style pecan pralines. It was as though I had tasted them before, even though I hadn’t. It tasted like love, butter, and pecans, unlike anything else. It was the inspiration for my pecan and slated caramel blondy.
What is your favorite dish to make at home for family or friends?
I love to make braised short ribs. It’s a time intensive process. They fall off the bone and everyone loves them. My secret is blending dried shitake mushrooms and anchovy into my braising liquid for intense flavor.
When cooking at home, are there things you are willing to buy versus making yourself?
On my Instagram account I feature items I find at Whole Foods. Crispy Chili Crunch and spicy mayonnaise are great examples. Any type of high-quality condiment is worth spending money on.
Share your favorite drink pairing with your favorite Blondery item.
Malbeq with my Brooklyn Black Out Blondy. Demi Sec sparkling wine with my cinnamon sugar blondy.
How do you unwind from the pressures of the baking business?
I’m an avid reader, especially of self help books. Now, I’m reading All About Love by bell hooks.
I love to play with my puppy, Caviar. I’ve also just re-started weight training, which isa great way to prepare for lifting heavy sacks of flour and sugar in the kitchen.
We’ve partnered with Auzerais to provide our guests with some of her incredibly unique blondies and brownies. Read more here.