Make sure you don’t starve yourself trying to feed everyone else. Even if you’re working 14–16 hours a day, take the time to nourish yourself properly.
Scarcity sells. For the sake of time and mental health, it’s okay to only offer a select number of products, slots, or tables as long as you can still make a profit. It’s okay to say “no” to catering clients if you don’t have the capacity to fulfill their requests because you’re fully booked. Say “our apologies but we’re unable at the moment” and move on.
Family first. Food second. Make time to spend it with those who you love and who support you.
As part of our series about the lessons from influential ‘TasteMakers’, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Maya-Camille Broussard, owner of Justice of the Pies, a bakery that specializes in sweet and savory pies, quiches and tarts. The Chicago-based chef created the company in 2014 in memory of her late father, Stephen J. Broussard, a criminal defense attorney with a deep love for anything made in a crust.
As a philanthropist, Broussard formed the “I KNEAD LOVE” Workshop, a culinary enrichment program designed to contribute to the fight against food insecurities for youths in grades 5th-8th, living in lower-income communities that may not have access to healthy food options. Students learn valuable kitchen skills, how to tap into creativity, and the importance of nutrition.
Broussard considers Justice of the Pies to be a social mission in a culinary art form and aims to positively impact the lives of others through her purpose driven work. A graduate of Howard University and Northwestern University, Broussard partners with the Cabrini Green Legal Aid for it’s yearly pie-drive to raise money for the organization, which provides free legal services for families living in poverty.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?
I love to eat. I love to eat well. Most of my family members know that before asking me for anything, they can always preface their request with “If I take you out to get something to eat, would you mind doing…” Once the best ways to eat well is to learn how to cook for yourself. Although I love to eat well, I didn’t always have the patience for it. Age has taught me to use the time in the kitchen as a meditative opportunity.
Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?
I do not have a specific type of food that I focus on. My international travels inspire my food. I love to translate a dish that is well-known in a culture and interpret it into a pie. I loved eating arepas during my time in Colombia. I’ve been playing around with the idea of how to make an arepa crust. Traveling is not only an opportunity to expand your personality, but to also increase the depths of your palate.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef or restauranteur? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I cannot recall any funny stories because as a food-based entrepreneur, I tend to be very serious and intense about my work. The most interesting thing to me is examining how people treat those in service-based industries. There is not gray area, it’s very black and white. People are either very grateful for the craft and are excited to be a willing participant in the experience, or they are extremely critical and entitled. The juxtaposition is so fascinating to me.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?
One of the things that I found personally hard in the beginning was constantly having to explain to customers that I am hearing-impaired and couldn’t understand them or needed them to repeat themselves several times. It was exhausting. As a creative, I’m used to and work best when I’m in my corner working on my craft. Interacting with guests was something relatively new to me and it required a lot of brain processing– which then left me perpetually exhausted. Instead of trying to interact with and understand every customer while speaking with them, I enlisted my assistants to be the primary point of contact when making transactions. I still interact with customers all of the time, but I’m most comfortable doing that in email.
In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?
Create what you want to eat. Be daring and be weird.
Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?
Gumbo. Crab legs. Shrimp + Grits. Bread pudding. Pound Cake. Sweet Potato Pie.
Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?
As a creative, you find inspiration everywhere; the places you travel to, eating other peoples’ food, the sneakers you buy, the conversations you have over cocktails. It’s everywhere. When you are still and present, the ideas come to you without much effort.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?
I am working on a new project. I can’t share too many details right now. But I think it will touch people and it will excite people.
What advice would you give to other chefs or restauranteurs to thrive and avoid burnout?
Delegate more. Prioritize personal self-care. Say no when you really don’t want to do a thing…you can always say ‘okay, yes’ later. Never stop finding joy in the small things. Be kind to people- you’ll find that they will go the extra mile for you if they know you care about them. The whole image of the pretentious chef who yells at his staff with obscenities and cracks crass jokes all the while taking photographs with his (or her) arms crossed to show off the tats while holding a knife is so passé- I’m rolling my eyes at the mere thought of it.
Thank you for all that. Now we are ready for the main question of the interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Restauranteur or Chef” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Sometimes you may not be charging enough for your food. Don’t be afraid to increase the price if the profit margins are slimmer than they should be.
- Those who are most unnecessarily cocky in the kitchen often don’t make amazingly good food. Don’t be intimidated by those who appear to be highly confident about what they make; just focus on your own plate.
- Make sure you don’t starve yourself trying to feed everyone else. Even if you’re working 14–16 hours a day, take the time to nourish yourself properly.
- Scarcity sells. For the sake of time and mental health, it’s okay to only offer a select number of products, slots, or tables as long as you can still make a profit. It’s okay to say “no” to catering clients if you don’t have the capacity to fulfill their requests because you’re fully booked. Say “our apologies but we’re unable at the moment” and move on.
- Family first. Food second. Make time to spend it with those who you love and who support you.
What’s the one dish people have to try if they visit your establishment?
Strawberry Basil Key Lime Pie.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Normalize getting therapy.
Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!