Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Barry.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Nicole. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
It all started with my move to Chicago–a city with an amazing food scene! My husband and I moved there after college for him to attend medical school. It was there that I decided to take the plunge and enroll in pastry school at The French Pastry School (FPS). I always have had a passion for food- especially breads and desserts- but I never thought of it as an appropriate career choice. However, the food scene in Chicago changed that narrow view and it amplified my desire to be in the kitchen.
I realized I could spend all day creating in a kitchen. So, I went through a baking and pastry program and then stayed on assisting some of the best French Pastry Chefs in the world as an intern at FPS. After pastry school, I had the opportunity to work in two quaint bakeries in Alsace, France. I spoke minimal French, just what I needed for working in the kitchen–numbers for scaling, recipes, bread terms/pastry terms. I carried around a French to English dictionary with me for conversations not about baking. The host families at both bakeries were truly amazing, and what impacted me most was seeing how much their local community depended on these bakeries for their daily bread/dessert/sweet treat, as opposed to large grocery stores.
It was truly an amazing experience that inspired me to want to eventually bring this small town bakery feel back to the US. But first, I needed more experience. Upon arriving back in the states, I worked in restaurants, absorbing and learning more from amazing chefs. I even took a job to work at Spago and Hotel Bel-Air for a few months while we were still living in Chicago– I truly just wanted to learn as much as possible and couldn’t turn down an opportunity. Thankfully, I had friends here that housed me for my stint in Los Angeles, and then, after a few months I needed to go back to my husband in Chicago.
As luck would have it, once done with medical school, my husband matched here at USC for surgical residency. It was so exciting to come back to California! I mean, Los Angeles has so many amazing restaurants! There was only one differing factor, I was pregnant. I had my son two months after moving back to California during my husband’s intern year of surgical residency, and then I had my daughter 19 months after that. Once I had two toddlers, the restaurant lifestyle wasn’t an option for me anymore. So we began a home-based business to keep my skill set up and to allow me to keep pursing my passion for pastry.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think anyone who goes into starting a business has dreams of what their business will ultimately become. The hardest part for me is staying patient as we take our baby steps toward that future goal. After becoming a mother, I sort of lost all sight of my career. I was just trying to survive the lonely transition. At that time, I felt like my career was gone forever, that I lost momentum and there is no way to come back from this break. My husband saw my discouragement and that’s when he encouraged me to start my own business doing in-home pastry parties. Each step of my business growth has been slow, I’ve learned to be patient in this season with a surgical resident as a spouse and two young kids.
If I would have tried to begin BAKE Toujours as it is today, I would have been too overwhelmed. Thankfully, people enjoyed the products we were making at the pastry parties and they began to ask me to start selling them. So, eventually, I applied for my cottage food license, created a website and launched a home bakery. It is pretty limiting to sell from your home, so then I moved to selling at the Altadena Farmers’ Market for more exposure. It has been such a joy being part of this community in Altadena.
My favorite part about owning a business is seeing how it morphs over time. I learn something new everyday. Being a part of the Altadena Farmers’ Market is the closest I’ve been to recreating that small town bakery feel that I loved so much about Alsace, France.
And of course, it’s easy to get discouraged when orders fall through, childcare falls through and you need to bring the kids to work, etc. Bumps in the road can get anyone down, and one of the biggest roadblocks for me has been wanting to expand into a shared commercial kitchen space, which would allow me to expand my menu and use more ingredients (cottage food businesses are restricted to mostly shelf-stable food). However, the cost and my time availability are holding me back at this time. I try to remind myself that there will be a time for this expansion once my kids are both in school.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Bake Toujours – what should we know?
Bake Toujours is a home bakery licensed under a cottage food permit. Toujours is the French word for “always.” Thus, the name translates to Bake Always– which is what I’m doing over here and I love it! We specialize in macarons, hand-rolled croissants and financiers. I’m most proud of the quality and love that goes into our products. We keep it simple–great ingredients create amazing treats!
Recently, my husband and I also launched a vlog on our Bake Toujours YouTube channel to share my love for pastry even further! It’s a new venture that we are loving and you should really check out if you’re interested in pastry.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Staying true to myself and keeping my endurance up for this marathon which is owning my own business. I’m not trying to sprint into success, my goal is to keep stepping towards the goal, one foot at a time.
- Macaron pricing 2.50 each, 1/2 dozen for $13, 1 dozen $24
- Website: www.baketoujours.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture of me demoing for individual photo and piping pate a choux by Carra O’Neal, Photo by Wesley Barry of geode macarons