Kelly Mayhew

After he was wounded in Iraq during his third tour of duty with the U.S. Army, Kelly Mayhew decided he needed a change of pace and enrolled in culinary school. Now, the veteran runs Mayhew Bakery (131 Nursery Ave., 843-814-3020;, a small business with a walk-up window in Old Metairie. Mayhew spoke with Gambit about baking.

Gambit: What got you interested in baking?

Mayhew: I was in the infantry when I got shot in Iraq and I spent some time in the hospital. When I got out, I went to culinary school at The Art Institute of Charleston (South Carolina). My grandparents started the first Krispy Kreme franchise, so I grew up around baking and I worked at some really good restaurants in Charleston, not as a baker but as a sous chef. I moved to New Orleans to be the sous chef at Brennan’s when it reopened. Since I had a baking background, Ralph (Brennan) made me the corporate baker for the restaurant. Then I opened my own little bakery about three years ago.

My first year and a half I was selling at the (Crescent City) Farmers Market and that’s what built the bakery. That’s what enabled us to buy all of the equipment. I was doing a market out of my house one day and I met the owner of the building where we are now. There was a cake decorator in (the space) and they were leaving, so they offered it to me right there. It’s in Old Metairie, kind of behind Nor-Joe (Imports). We sell out of a window like a snowball stand because of the residential zoning. We were just wholesale, and about six months ago (Jefferson Parish) gave me the permit to sell retail.

G: What do you specialize in and where can people find your products?

M: We do a lot of sourdough breads and we also do pastries, scones, cookies, biscotti, all sorts of goodies, and king cakes during king cake season. We create our own menu. The night before we create the menu, it’s like, “What did we get from the farmers market that we can cook?”

For king cakes, the icing is white chocolate poured fondant — it’s good white chocolate, vanilla and honey and I can’t tell you what the bread is made of because it’s my secret. But it’s soft and we do different fillings. We do a cream cheese filling that we bake in, which makes it more decadent. We do a traditional (style) and we do a fruit and cream cheese with fruit we get from the market, whether it’s strawberries or whatever is available. I also do the galette des rois with puff pastry and frangipane. Every day I open, lines get bigger and bigger. Today, we made 20 more than we ever have and I sold out in two hours, so it’s getting busier.

I do (wholesale) accounts for Three B’s (Burger & Wine Bar), Piece of Meat, Carrollton Market, Red Gravy, Andy’s Bistro, Conola (Grill & Sushi) and Marjie’s Grill when they do specials.

G: What draws you to baking over other types of cooking?

M: I just like it better. I really like doing baguettes and some harder (artisan) breads. It’s not easy. I think it’s more of a challenge than hot-line cooking, because I can fix anything on the line, quickly. But if I mess up bread — when I figure out that I’ve messed it up, it’s six hours later and it’s too late. So, it’s more of a challenge, but in a fun way.