Get up, dress up, show up. My parents reiterated this to us growing up — as a teenager, I felt very tired of hearing it! But now, I appreciate its value. On the hardest days of opening the bakery, working 15-hour days, seven days a week, for months and years on end — there were many days when I could have stayed in bed. There were many times in the early days that negative online reviews could have crushed me enough to give up. Or when I was figuring out my leadership style, hurtful comments from previous employees could have told me I’d never figure it out… But, I got up every day and pulled myself together to unlock the doors to my shop for another day. That mindset and the consistency of pulling yourself up has been invaluable to me.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Garbacz,the founder and head pastry chef of Goldenrod Pastries, an all-women-run pastry shop located on a picturesque corner in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the bakery, Angela emphasizes inclusivity by developing recipes and baking for people who are dietary-sensitive. She has built an extensive program of American-style pastries, ranging from cookies and cakes to an elaborate morning bun program. Angela is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with degrees in Culinary and Food Sciences, and also has a degree in Classic French Pastry Arts. Since opening in 2015, Angela has been recognized by Food & Wine magazine as “one of the most innovative women in food and drink,” she was named a “Chef To Watch” by Plate, and ranked on Cherry Bombe magazine’s coveted “100 List” of inspiring and creative women. In 2018, she spearheaded an original annual initiative called “Empower Through Flour,” which brings together female chefs, pastry chefs, and influencers from across the United States to raise money and awareness for the non-profit organization, I AM THAT GIRL. Angela aims to support female empowerment and promote inclusive baking and dining at her bakery and in her everyday life.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is bake. Baking, working with my hands, and feeding people has always been an extension of who I am and it’s what brings me the most joy and peace. I started working in professional kitchens as a line cook when I was 16 and was immediately hooked on the environment and energy of being in kitchens — I got to be surrounded by a huge kitchen full of people who loved doing the same thing that I loved. Fast forward about 15 years, I took a brief respite from kitchens after earning a BS degree in food science in college to work in international marketing for a biotechnology company. I loved what I did and was learning so much about working in a corporate environment, but the creative side of myself was very antsy. After cutting out dairy from my diet, I wanted to teach myself to bake without the traditional and heavily used butter and heavy cream (I was trained in classic French pastry). I started a blog to chronicle my journey learning to bake dairy-free, sharing anecdotes and stories along the way. Within a month, I had orders coming in left and right from people following along. They were looking for dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and traditional pastries. Within three months, I was working my full-time job in marketing and was baking before work, after work, delivering orders over my lunch hour, and doing orders, wedding tastings, and pop-up shops on the weekends. I knew there was a market for a brick and mortar store in my Lincoln, Nebraska, community. My blog first launched publicly in April 2014 and my bakery opened May 2015.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
One of the most terrifying parts of starting my own bakery was thinking about what kind of leader I was going to be. I had been taught by people who used fear and insults as motivators. I knew I wanted to find my own path for leadership — and so I would have to unlearn ways I had been taught, and teach myself new ways to communicate and lead. In the high stress world of the food industry where mental health has been making headlines, I’ve found it very valuable to choose leading with compassion, open communication, and kindness. This has to be the future of our industry to provide an environment for career longevity and employee well-being. I am deeply invested in making the kitchen a more positive place to build a career.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
There are three women who made a very specific impact on my journey: Tuesday Bassen, Megan Hunt, and Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik. These women asked me clear and pointed questions about my dream of having a bakery. They wanted to know my ideas on location, decor, menu items, opening dates, and everything in between. As successful, very busy, business women, they found the time to sit down with me and ask these questions that, as a young dreamer, I hadn’t fully thought out. They made me realize that my dreams could very quickly turn into something very real. I credit them for so much of my journey simply because they took the time to sit with me, listen to me, and ask questions. I’ve learned that this is the most valuable currency we have to offer other women and people with ideas for growth and success.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Get up, dress up, show up. My parents reiterated this to us growing up — as a teenager, I felt very tired of hearing it! But now, I appreciate its value. On the hardest days of opening the bakery, working 15-hour days, seven days a week, for months and years on end — there were many days when I could have stayed in bed. There were many times in the early days that negative online reviews could have crushed me enough to give up. Or when I was figuring out my leadership style, hurtful comments from previous employees could have told me I’d never figure it out… But, I got up every day and pulled myself together to unlock the doors to my shop for another day. That mindset and the consistency of pulling yourself up has been invaluable to me.
- Other women are not the competition. My friend Elisabeth shared an article with me around 2012 that reminded us that there is room at the top for more than one woman, and that the success of our female friends did not mean the failure of ourselves. The more we lift each other up and the more we work to listen to each other, I believe we all win.
- What’s the worst that can happen?! I tell this to anyone who asks for my advice about a new project, concept, or idea. I considered this many times a day when I was trying to decide if I was going to leave my stable job in marketing to open a dairy-free, gluten-free bakery in Lincoln, Nebraska. I figured that the worst that could happen was that my business would fail and I would have to find a job to pay off my business loan. I already had a job and didn’t mind it, so that wasn’t a very bad worst case scenario. Fear holds us back from so many things — but once we look at what the worst outcome is, it really isn’t that bad most of the time. This approach has been a great exercise for me personally, and for people I talk with who are wanting to try something new.
How are you going to shake things up next?
My first cookbook will be released in Spring 2020! It is a collection of recipes that allows you to bake in many different ways, and customize recipes for multiple ways of eating — preferences and restrictions included. This is the future of food: being mindful of the ways people choose or need to eat, and finding new ways to approach baking and cooking for each other. I’m excited to share the results of many years of research, beautiful buns, perfectly golden cookies, and all of the approaches to this new way of baking we’ve learned to use.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I love Julia Turshen’s Keep Calm and Cook On podcast. She focuses on interviewing women and queer leaders in the food industry. Her very approachable way of communicating with her guests always gets to the heart of issues very quickly. The episode she aired with Yasmin Khan struck me this past summer when I was working on the manuscript for my cookbook. I was really caught up and honestly confused about what I was going to say, how I was going to say it — and this project I had dreamed of my whole life on a topic I had been living and breathing for 30 years felt completely impossible. Yasmin was talking about the process of writing her most recent cookbook, Zaitoun, and her journey sharing the stories and recipes from Palestine and the Palestinian people she met during her research. Through her interview on this podcast, she reminded me that food is about conversation and storytelling. While I am not telling the story of a whole country of people, I was working on telling the story of food in my life and what it’s meant to me. This interview and podcast helped bring me back to my roots in food, why I love it, the women who taught me, and the women I’ve had the pleasure of baking with along the way.
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
Listen to the dreams of young people. I knew from a very young age that I loved to bake and wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I was very lucky to have a family that always encouraged me to do what I loved. When a young person comes to you with a dream or an idea, do not pass it off as what they are interested in just as a young person — take the time to listen to them and hear them. Passionate young people are our future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? Find a way to be productive everyday.
I think this is the most straightforward, logical advice I have heard and can give to others. Always find a way to be productive. Your goals will become reality so much quicker when you focus your energy on productivity.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On Instagram! @angelagarbacz_ and @goldenrodpastries
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!