And here enters the newest member of the Patina Green family, Pamela Thibodeaux, the baker, or as she likes to call herself "deaux" baker. And already, you get a sense of that quick wit and artsy personality with her play on words. Our photographer captured Pam creating a birthday cake for a private party and we asked Pam a few questions so we (and you) could get to know her better.
Why do you bake?
Food is a sacred part of my family culture. We like to eat. A lot. I remember learning what a roux and mirepoix was at a very early age. My mom would often make fresh bread to go along with dinner and I can recall coming home from school and smelling it walking into the house. Growing up, my sister, Linda, and I would bake together often....although she was much more of a perfectionist than I....every detail of a cake or pie had to be perfect. I was the one sitting on the counter licking the spoon.
My sister was born with a serious heart condition, and had always struggled with feeling held back in life from doing the things she wanted to do. She passed away a few years ago. It was the most important thing to have ever shattered me.
As an adult, and as a baker, I am much more strict and even rather OCD when it comes to my baking principles. Weights and measures can be a tough gig to follow, but it's all about the final product. We've all heard it before - baking is very much a science, but also an art form. I suppose the combination of art and science has always fascinated me as a creative individual. It allows me the artistic outlet that all us weirdos crave. That insatiable hunger to keep pushing to see what the next level brings. Plus, you get to eat it.
"I bake for the sake of art, the challenge, sharing a part of me with others and the memory it holds dear to me of my sister. It embodies what I find to be a real meaningful way to live."
How did you start?
As cliche as it sounds, I've been cooking/baking my entire life. During college days, I was the friend who always brought dessert to social gatherings, naturally. It became expected at some point. I didn't really start tapping into artisan bread making until about 5-6 years ago. Experimenting with levain, different flours and types of breads was a whole new world to me that I was eager to figure out.
I am self taught. Learned what I could from family, books and YouTube.
Professionally I have only been baking for a few years in a couple commercial kitchens making anywhere from plated desserts, cakes, pies, various pastries and of course artisan breads....that I often refer to as my "sourdeaux."
How and why do you like working at Patina?
Often I will start my day at PG walking into either Bone Thugs-n-Harmony or The Growlers playing on the surround. I'll begin the opening duties while pouring myself some cold brew with an exchange of greetings/jokes from the guys in the kitchen. Or a sweet sincere hug from Ms. Luann.
We go about our day, slammed as always, seeing new faces and of course our regulars who we hold close to our hearts. I have only worked for PG since January, yet it feels as though I have always been here. I can be mid conversation with someone and look up to see Kaci staring back with us both thinking the same thing. Chef Robert giving me advice to improve my skill and continue to challenge myself. We all thrive off this energy we create, some kind of force that we are all in tune with.
Some days are good and some days are not so good. That's just how it goes anywhere. Yet we all at the end of the day make effort to share our viewpoints and laugh about it as a family. We all have this intricate part, and each bring something of value and authenticity to PG. Its a rare thing one gets to experience really. I have worked in the corporate world enough to know it's not the lifestyle for me. Working for a small business you see the true dedication it takes and how much of an impact you can truly make. When you get to be surrounded by real people who make a meaningful impact on your life, help you to grow and truly believe in the same philosophies as you, that's when you know you have found your home.
"Working for a small business you see the true dedication it takes and how much of an impact you can truly make."
Does your baking follow Patina Green's philosophy of food?
The use of real ingredients is detrimental to me. I am all about seasonality when it comes to baking. I'm simply not going to bake anything with apples in early spring, or use blueberries in the middle of December. It's not happening. (Unless they were preserved or pickled!) It's about the what, where, how and who. What is grown seasonally, where it was grown, how did they grow it, (what sustainable methods were used?) and who's hands are responsible for the product. There is a cycle to nature and how we should approach our food.
"We all have a responsibility to be stewards of the land and to respect what bounty it brings when it brings."
I have been asked before by individuals if I could make a themed cake for their children and often times I have to turn them away. It's not out of snobbery by any means. Hey I like Pixar movies too! I choose to not use anything artificial just so that something can "look cool." You will never find me using fondant, artificial dyes, preservatives etc. If it didn't come from a plant, or wasn't something I made, grew or foraged, it's not going in or on one of my cakes.
Working at PG, we occasionally get individuals who come in and just don't get what we are doing, and that's okay. There are other businesses out there that will cater to those lifestyle choices. To each his own. I choose to consciously source what goes into my baked goods. Does that answer the question?
Yes, Pam. I think it does. Welcome to the family.