The Future is Golden | Meet Angela Garbacz of Goldenrod Pastries
Recognized by Food & Wine magazine as one of the most innovative women in food and drink, Angela Garbacz of Goldenrod Pastries is known for her artfully designed, melt-in-your-mouth confections. She is also a social media maven who was able to parlay the success from her personal blog into a thriving brick and mortar bakery.
Armed with culinary degrees from both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and French Culinary Institute in New York, Garbacz learned she had an intolerance to dairy, a discovery that motivated her to refine recipes to cater to a variety of restricted and alternative diets (such as dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan + others). Read on to learn more about Goldenrod Pastries and what inspires Angela and her all-female team.
Tell us a little bit about your journey from a one-woman baking operation to a 12 strong all-female team?
It started in the kitchen like a lot of chefs - baking with my parents and grandparents. It was the only activity I wanted to do in my free time. Baking and feeding people has always brought me a lot of joy and being in the kitchen has always felt very peaceful. Food brings people together and makes them happy. It's really pure and simple - and I love that. I knew from a very young age that I would spend my life doing this, but I just had to figure out how to do it. I landed a job in marketing after college and culinary school, and started my blog from the desk at that job. When people saw that I was baking for special diets they started putting orders in - and it grew really quickly! I was working my full-time job and baking full-time from my house - finishing orders before work, delivering and grocery shopping over my lunch hour, then baking and blogging all night. My little blog grew into a business really fast. I signed the lease for my first space within nine months of publishing my blog. Because opening a bakery had been my dream from a young age, I knew I had to strike quickly while the market was ready, and it turned out to be a very successful choice.
How has learning about your own dietary restrictions changed the way you view baking?
Honestly, once I cut out dairy, I realized just how exclusive food can be. If you don't (or can't!) follow the status quo, it's really hard to find great food options. I had to completely rethink how to bake. I went to the French Culinary Institute for culinary school, which taught me to use a lot of butter and cream. Cutting out those classic ingredients meant I had to find replacements that were equally as delicious, without being overly processed. There were a lot of hits and misses along the way - really gummy gluten-free cakes, flavorless vegan cinnamon rolls, and pale chocolate chip cookies - but I just kept trying new things until everything was delicious. It was really discouraging to me that this large percentage of people with allergies and/or dietary restrictions couldn't easily find delicious food to eat on a regular basis. I want the food we make to be as inclusive as possible - I don't want people to feel left out because of how they eat.
What sparked the decision to start the Goldenrod Pastries blog? Has it changed the way you engage with your community?
My whole business started as a blog. I was working in international marketing at the time, and wasn't creatively satisfied. I knew there could be more for me. The idea of community was a really vague concept to me until I started blogging. Once I was putting my own thoughts out there, I was able to gather feedback on what my community liked and cared about - and, as it turned out, we all had a lot in common. Even though the bakery has been around for three years now, we still use the blog as a way to share and communicate our story. Social media, especially Instagram, has also been a huge platform for Goldenrod. I'm able to show people our products and store experience in real time - giving them a glimpse into the Goldenrod experience. Curating the experience for our online community is a huge priority for me.
You’ve been labeled as one of the most innovative women in food. How do you stay inspired and deal with creative block?
I always want to innovate with the way Goldenrod exists as a whole - from the food we are making, to the team and culture I build and support, to the organizations we support. Honestly, creative blocks usually come from spending too much time on the Internet - so I really try to disconnect, bake, and interact with my team. The best inspiration begins at square one. We ask ourselves the questions: What do we love to eat? What do we care about? And how do we want people to feel when they interact with Goldenrod? One great example is our aesthetic for celebration cakes. I have a really clear vision on how I want things to look. My sister-in-law was my first employee and is also our main cake decorator. Over time, we put our creative energy together to create a style that spans both of our visions. We collaborate on a lot of designs - from the font, to the colors of buttercream, even down to the sprinkle choice. Our visual brand for cakes is completely due to our creative collaboration.
"It's so important to remember other women are not the competition, and that we should be lifting each other up to be successful. There is room at the top for more than just one of us."
Any advice for other young women who want to make a career out of baking?
I really feel that women are the future of the food industry. As with anything, get into it because you love doing it more than anything else. Culinary school isn't essential. Find people whose work you admire, work for them, and ask a ton of questions.
What’s your favorite recipe you’ve come up with thus far and why?
I have to choose two! The crumble-bun is a Goldenrod original and my brainchild - so, of course, it's very near and dear to my heart. It is a swirled up sweet, yeasted dough, punched down in the center and filled with homemade preserves, roasted fruit, or citrus curd - then it gets topped with a coconut crumble. The second is our new fluffernutter cookie sandwich: two very soft peanut butter cookies with marshmallow buttercream and a big swipe of straight-up peanut butter in the middle. I'm OBSESSED!
What’s the one thing you love most about baking?
I find a lot of power with baking. It's when I feel most in-control and confident. Baking is the way I express myself and Goldenrod has become the catalyst in my efforts to make an impact on the world. Goldenrod is the voice that I've given to my passion.
Where do you see the future of Goldenrod going?
The food industry is shifting dramatically right now, and the culture we have created at Goldenrod is one I want to share as this shift happens. We aren't just baking delicious treats - we are trying to create and be a part of the movement where women are at the forefront. I hope we can share our way of cooking with people around the country, letting them into our kitchen. I always hire people who are passionate as individuals, no matter what their passion is. I want to work with people who care - and empower them to be passionate on their own. It's so important to remember other women are not the competition, and that we should be lifting each other up to be successful. There is room at the top for more than just one of us.
What are three hidden gems in Nebraska?
Seeing the stars at night.
Lush farmers' markets - I love buying obscure herbs and finding entire kale bushes at the stands!
Branched Oak Farm - a small organic dairy farm that is owned by a woman about my age... it's 15 minutes from my store and has the best views in the whole state.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH is all about female empowerment and not apologizing for who you are and how you want to exist in the world.
Who’s your MISSBISH?
There are a lot of women who inspire me! Nigella Lawson is my OG MISSBISH. She is unapologetic in loving food and has created her whole brand around being a strong woman.