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Baker In Focus
44 Pastry & Baking North America
make it work over the long haul, and then in walked my
head baker Kevin Powers.  
2. Market and promote the hell out of it. Ship items to
publications. Put Facebook and Twitter to work. Talk it up
all over the place. 
3. You can’t donate food and stay in business. Every group,
school, church and non-profit wanted free food for events
(whatever happened to kids and moms baking cakes for
Bake Sales?). When we realized that donating all that stuff
was taxing our kitchen and staff, we limited donations to
gift certificates; no exceptions. And we found out they’re
just as happy with those and it brings in new customers. 
4. Remember Steve Job’s adage: Sometimes you need to
tell the customer what they want. 
5. That you’ll never stop fretting over being able to pay
the bills.
What advice can you offer those readers considering
baking as a profession, particularly to those who are
contemplating a complete career change? 
I can’t answer that question without first referring you to our
website. On the last page are glowing reviews from national
publications, but it ends with a laugh from a bakery owner
with years of experience: “I think you’re crazy for being a
baker instead of an art director!”
I encourage the complete career change. I did it as the
economy took a nosedive and immediately heard from former
magazine co-workers saying I got out of the publishing
business just in time. But, you know, every business is affected
by a crappy economy. I started the Red Truck Bakery in the
middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression;
we’re scraping by and, with our good team, we’re having fun
doing it. But don’t take anything for granted: for eight months
we were the only game in town – and then a national franchise
bakery based in the mid-west opened up at the other end of
Main Street. And, although they have some fans, most locals
have embraced us because we’re a local homegrown business
that really cares about quality and taste.
Virginia that I’m about to make into a quiche with local morel
mushrooms; both seasonal ingredients showed up at the
bakery unannounced over the last week.
You received
magazine’s “Best
Pumpkin Pie” award, beating out 20 other bakeries and
restaurants in the DC area.What’s your secret? 
That was
for us – we’re 50 miles from DC and we beat
out the pros inside the Beltway! But our customers weren’t
really surprised – they love that pie. The secret is simple: I
don’t simply dump in white sugar to sweeten the pumpkin
and eggs, but slowly cook up a heavy cream-based golden
caramel sauce on top of the stove and blend that in with the
pumpkin, eggs and spices. The flavor is much deeper, more
multi-layered and much richer while still staying very light.
Your product packaging, logo, retail fit-out, and shop
exterior are stunning. Considering that customers
tend to eat with their eyes, do you think today’s
entrepreneurial dessert professionals focus enough on
the presentation of the total experience? 
I imagine dessert pros focus on the presentation of the item,
but they may not think enough about the bigger picture.
Label design, packaging, display, signage, paint colors, floor
materials: it all adds up to creating one singular look and feel.
I wanted to offer a very good coffee, and we spent a summer
tasting different bean combinations roasted for us by Counter
Culture Coffee. We settled on a robust blend, a medium
blend and a decaf mix and, because our bakery is in an old
gas station with an old truck parked out front, we named
them Red Truck Hi-Octane, Premium and Unleaded, and the
labels feature a painting of the service station with the truck.
It works not because I’m a former magazine art director, but
because we took the time to consider every design aspect of
the business.
For most in the baking business, opening their own
place is the dream.What have you learned? 
1. That I can’t do it myself. It takes a team and every one of
them is a valuable part. I had a limited employment pool
out in our rural area and we had some misfires when we
opened. We were in the weeds the first week and I was
scared to death trying to figure out how we were going to