Every sweet treat has a story. We often tell the stories of home kitchens and cooks here at The Kitchn, but we're also curious about how professional kitchens work and how entrepreneurs build their businesses. Our Maker Tours tell these stories, and today we're looking back at 10 of our favorites.
Each of these tours is a sweet treat in its own way, from a visit to Jeni's Ice Creams a few years back, to Kim Boyce's whole grain-inspired bakery in Portland. There's a vegan ice cream truck in Santa Barbara, and fruit sodas from Brooklyn. We talk about the secret sauce that makes these businesses fly, and peek inside kitchens, test labs, and chocolate workshops. Chocolate, ice cream, cupcakes, and pie — come and see how they're cooked up!
There are common threads that run through these stories. You may notice that many of these businesses were born in a home kitchen then grew and spread into a professional space.
I was also intrigued to see how many of these entrepreneurs have a background in art. Not business, not food service, not chef training — fine art.
→ How Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams Are Made in Columbus, Ohio
Jeni Britton Bauer has nearly conquered the world with her sweet empire of handcrafted ice creams and treats, all made in my own hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Her scoop shops are wildly popular, and her cookbook won a James Beard award. We visited her a few years ago, and peeked inside the tiny kitchen where she researches flavors and the only slightly larger one where all that ice cream is made.
→ Kumquat Cupcakery: Deliciously Sweet & Salty Mini Cupcakes in Brooklyn
Ever dreamed of making cupcakes for a living? Keavy Landreth does just that, working her way up from baking in her tiny Brooklyn apartment to using professional space to create he secret-recipe mini cupcakes. She talks honestly about her challenges and early mistakes in starting a bakery in the hotbed of food otherwise known as New York City.
→ Woodblock Chocolate in Portland, Oregon
Jessica and Charley make bean-to-bar chocolate in Portland — launching the business from their home kitchen then eventually moving into a larger space. They focus on purity and quality in the bars, sourcing the beans themselves and staying hands-on through the whole process. A fascinating look behind the scenes of a real chocolate factory!
→ Jana Kinsman of Bike a Bee: Building Hives & Sharing Honey in Chicago
Jana not only maintains hives in urban Chicago (zipping between them on her bike) but envisions her honey project as a community resource. She teaches classes and workshops, and is incorporating her local business as a 501(c)(3), designed to funnel its sweet honey profits right back into the community, building more hives in public spaces and teaching people how honey is made.
→ Suzanne Fuoco of Pink Slip Jams
Suzanne is an artist and the jam-maker behind Pink Slip Jams — a refined line of jams that draw from local Portland farmers and handcrafted essential oils as well as her artist's sensibilities. Here, Suzanne explains what it's like to start and run a business all on your own. She's the proprietress, visionary, sole jam-maker, and bottle washer, all in one!
→ Portland's Pacific Pie Co.
We think of pies primarily as sweet, but Australian Sarah Curtis-Fawley started her pie business at first to sell meat pies. She quit her career in criminology and focused instead on pies full-time as the business heated up.
→ Twenty-Four Blackbirds: Artisan Chocolates from Santa Barbara
Mike Orlando started out as a scientist, then turned his analytical skills to chocolate. He and his girlfriend ran this bean-to-bar company in their spare time, until finally Mike quit his job and went full-time in chocolate. He brings his curiosity to the whole process, using equipment he builds himself — with obsessive testing, and the power of the internet!
→ Sugar & Salt Creamery: Jon Carpenter's Delicious Vegan Ice Cream
Jon Carpenter's adorable blue bus is fast becoming a local fixture on Santa Barbara beaches. But he doesn't offer the usual ice cream truck sweets — his ice cream is handmade and vegan. His story is also an interesting example of collaboration, as he cooks up his ice cream in a local music venue, sharing space and testing flavors with a friend who runs Juice Ranch.
→ Brooklyn Soda Works: Weird & Wonderful Carbonated Fruit Sodas
Antonio and Caroline got bit by the soda bug a few years ago, creating sodas to drink at home out of fresh fruit juices instead of syrups. They borrowed technique and equipment from beer brewers and before they knew it they were in business selling 5 gallon kegs of fresh sodas to businesses and bars.
→ BakeShop: Kim Boyce's Whole Grain Bakery in Portland, Oregon
We loved Kim Boyce's cookbook, Good to the Grain, but she's not only a cookbook author. Her bakery in Portland is a local favorite, offering sweet treats with the added goodness (and taste) of whole grains. Kim started out working in high-end restaurants, and we love the story of how she came to create her own unique spin on the local bakery.
(Images: All images original to The Kitchn. See posts for full image credits.)