Sarah Joy Hays found a love for baking when she worked at Pennsylvania State University, mentoring freshmen and regularly hosting students.
Later, when she moved to Washington, D.C., Hays taught herself how to make biscuits and king cakes, wanting to impress her friends with Louisiana items. Between jobs, while working at a neighborhood kitchen shop, she discovered another love for cookbooks and kitchen tools.
That job at Hill's Kitchen "also taught me so much about community and the importance of being a part of a neighborhood," Hays said. "Our local coffee shop was across the street and was where I made some of my dearest friends in the whole world, all over our morning cappuccino."
Fast forward, and Hays found another love, for hosting cooking classes, when she returned home to Louisiana and wanted to teach people the skills she had learned.
CounterSpaceBR, Hays' bakery business on Perkins Road, is an extension of all of those ideas.
I’ve been a fan of CounterSpaceBR's baked goods ever since I came across their former location in White Star Market. Coincidentally, my best friend surprised me with one of their decked-out funfetti cakes for my birthday this year, too.
After gorging on the cake, I wanted to know more about CounterSpaceBR. I messaged the business via Instagram to set up an interview and recently met Hays at her shop on Perkins Road for this edition of Let's Dish. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What does the term "chef" mean to you?
I truly believe the title of "chef" belongs to two sorts of people: those who have attended and graduated culinary school and those who have worked their tails off in the food industry and worked their way up to leading a kitchen.
Do you consider yourself a chef?
Because of the respect I have for that title, I would never call myself a chef. I haven't earned that title — but it's one I aspire to.
What was the hardest part of starting your bakery?
I think the hardest part was not knowing what I didn't know. More practically, and what I still struggle with, is communicating all that we are capable of at CounterSpaceBR. We aren't just cookies and cakes, and we are always wanting to try new things.
What advice would you give others pursuing a culinary career?
I would say, “Ask a million questions.” I was really grateful to have some dear friends who have been blogging and baking and running restaurants and working in the food world for many, many years. And I am not afraid to ask a ton of questions. My most frequently asked question, "I feel crazy for doing this. Is that normal?" The answer is always, "Yes!"
What do you have coming up in 2019?
2019 is going to be big for CounterSpaceBR. We have already rolled out some of our classes and workshops, but we have a robust schedule coming. There will be hand lettering workshops, brunch classes, more cake decorating classes, biscuit making classes, floral workshops. And we hope to announce a private dinner series soon. We are eager to have local chefs in for ticketed dinners, or you can host a private dinner of your own. Plus the birthday parties. Really, I'm eager to put our dining room to good use and create a space for food creatives and other artists to grow and teach and just have fun.
If you had to eat one Baton Rouge dish for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
This one is hard … maybe cheese fries from Chimes? Or the butter chicken at Soji. … The burger at BRQ is unreal good. Garlic knots from Rocca. Yep, this is definitely the hardest question.
3753 Perkins Road
9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday