Flour Bakery and Cafe owner Joanne B. Chang ’91—sporting a crisp chef’s coat—spoke about her experiences in the culinary world and signed copies of her new cookbook at a standing-room only event at the Harvard Book Store yesterday evening.
Chang first monetized her baking skills by making cookies for Leverett House Grille, which is no longer in existence, in order to raise money for new pairs of running shoes. The cookies, which she sold for 25 cents each, quickly became popular and kept her busy baking on weeknights, she said.
Her skill in the kitchen and their popularity led her to be known as “Chocolate Chip Cookie Girl,” according to Chang’s book.
“It was a nice break from problem sets,” she said.
After graduating from Harvard College, Chang began a career as a consultant at the Monitor Group, without expectations of entering the culinary world. Two years later, she decided to try something new and took a job in the kitchen of a popular Boston restaurant.
“Business was interesting to me, but it wasn’t compelling,” Chang said. “I get an incredible amount of joy when I’m in the kitchen baking pastries.”
Chang went through a variety of baking positions at a number of restaurants, including Rialto in Harvard Square, before eventually deciding to open her own bakery. While the bakery was popular from the time it opened, Chang said she often found it difficult to keep it going because of the intense pressure and long hours.
Now, 10 years later, Flour is a local favorite with three locations in the Boston area. Chang has also opened an Asian fusion restaurant named Myers + Chang with her husband.
While Chang said she would love to see more people enter the culinary industry, she warned those who are interested that the job may be tougher than they think.
“I think it’s important that [people interested in culinary arts] know that it’s not what they see on TV,” she said, emphasizing the long hours and intense dedication required.
For example, Chang said her job in the cake department of the Payard Patisserie and Bistro in New York City required her to work from 4 a.m. to midnight, six days a week.
Cambridge local Dorothy Valery said she could relate to Chang’s passion for baking.
“I always cook after a long day,” she said. “It’s just something I like to do.”
—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at email@example.com.
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