Baker Kim Dejan just finished a two-week residency at Roux Carre (2000 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 504-875-4293; www.rouxcarre.com), the first in a series of pop-ups that highlights up-and-coming food entrepreneurs at the Central City food hall. Dejan, who recently left an accounting job, now specializes in bite-size sweets at her dessert catering company KD's NOLA Treats (504-345-4555; www.kdsnolatreats.com), and she teaches baking classes for children at the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center in Broadmoor. She spoke with Gambit about baking.
Why did you leave your corporate career to pursue baking?
Dejan: I'm born and raised in New Orleans, and I grew up very close with my grandparents. I would visit my father's mom pretty much every weekend and every summer. She was a home baker, and she took care of the house and the kids and her husband. She cooked everything from scratch, and she would always tell me, "Go to college and get a degree," because she didn't have access to that, so that was her dream. I followed her command and did just that. I later found out that that wasn't my passion and wasn't going to make me happy. So recently, I quit my job in the corporate world to pursue my dream. I realized baking was my passion a couple of years ago, but I always baked. It's what I would turn to after a stressful day or during the holidays.
I realized during a parent leadership class (at Family Leadership Training Institute) that this is something that not only can I give back to the kids but I can give back to myself and pursue it as a career.
In 2016, I launched KD's Nola Treats. Now that I've finished the two-week Roux (Carre) residency, I'm doing a lot of catering and baking parties. I'm looking into festivals and other pop-ups and anything that has me out and about. Everything I make is homemade, fresh from scratch — just basic ingredients and love.
How was the Roux Carre residency?
D: That was my first experience having a storefront. Before that it was strictly bake-to-order with payments done in advance. (The residency) was fun. It was really exhilarating because it was nonstop. It was something you have to be passionate about. I got feedback from my social media followers, and they were coming out to support me. I met new faces in the neighborhood who were already patronizing Roux Carre.
One thing I really liked is that it gave me the ability to be creative. (Roux Carre) didn't care what I did and how I did it. I would walk up and down Oretha Castle Haley (Boulevard) giving out samples, going to businesses and introducing myself. I made my own yard signs. I put flyers all around the area.
How do the children's baking classes work?
D: Baking with a Purpose started out of the (class at the) Family Leadership Training Institute. I was challenged to come up with a project to give back to the community. The project was to hold one baking session, but I was compelled to do more. The classes are about allowing kids to be themselves. It's OK to make mistakes; there's no pressure. You can be creative and you have to think and use the skills that you're learning at school. What I'm compelled to get across to these kids is that going in the steps of what (their) parents want (them) to be may not always satisfy what they want in adulthood. I support finding your inner and creative passion, because for me that leads to a more healthy and happy lifestyle. I tell them that whether they decide to be their own boss or work for someone else, "Find what your passion is and tap into that," because it can be your biggest stress relief at the end of the day.
In school, you're molded to be a worker. We weren't molded to be our own boss. I feel like I can change that in some way through this class. I explain who I am and I give my little background, and then I'm like, "Hey, I'm doing this, so you can too."