Interview with Michelle Tampakis
Chef/Owner Whipped Pastry Boutique
By Jeff Yoskowitz, Jessie Riley and Kathryn Gordon
(Editor’s note- Michelle has been a long time Instructor colleague at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). In 2010, she was named one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs by Dessert Professional Magazine. She was diagnosed with celiac disease 6 years ago. Her medical diagnosis turned into a passion to be able to eat delicious foods again. Whipped Pastry Boutique is a gluten free bakery.)
Kathryn: Hi Michelle! We’re so excited to be visiting you here in Red Hook, Brooklyn, because it feels like we never see you at ICE anymore after you’ve opened your bakery.
Michelle: I’m still teaching but mostly weekends. I love teaching and it would be very hard for me to give it up.
We opened the bakery January 20th. We had been planning to open Whipped Pastry Boutique before the holidays, but everything got delayed in Brooklyn because of Hurricane Sandy.
(Michelle pointed out where the high point of the water from the hurricane rose to, and explained all the damage it caused in the pre opening period last fall)
Jessie: As we were coming in, we saw a sizable wholesale delivery going out from your bakery. How is everything progressing; 2 months after opening?
Michelle: Our biggest client is Juice Generation. They bring me fresh squeezed juice for “input ingredients” for their custom line of muffins We recently started Kale muffins for them and now they are a best seller. Their delivery truck comes and gets their orders for Manhattan every afternoon.
Custom gluten-free kale and other muffins featuring Juice Gernation's products
Jeff: How did you get Juice Generation as a customer?
Michelle: It was through a friend of a friend. My favorite, FOF’s! This one was through someone we all know (for many years) who represents a chocolate company. He knew the owners.
Jessie: How do you structure your production? It seems like everyone is working now on measuring eggs…
Michelle: Basically we start here around 8 in the morning with production. In the afternoon, we “mise en place” for the next day and then end with packaging by late afternoon. We can move to 2 staggered shifts a day if necessary when we're busy.
I’ve been trying to schedule product tastings with potential clients in the morning so I try to be back in the early afternoon to help the staff. I have a lead production manager, several assistant bakers and a dishwasher/prep person right now.
At the end of the production shift, everyone cleans. There are floor drains so we can hose down everything and we clean everything, including inside the ovens. Then when I get home, I do paperwork. Sometimes I’m frantic; I’ll never get the paperwork done. But overall I love it here.
Note: Gluten free baking tends to incorporate lots of ingredients to mimic the complex functions of wheat flour – no one ingredient will act exactly like flour.
Jeff: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Michelle: Producing gluten free products, I have a very large and diverse set of ingredients. Meeting the minimum orders for each of my many suppliers is the most surprising challenge I’ve come across especially since some suppliers only deliver to certain areas on a particular day of the week. It’s very challenging for a new business that doesn’t want to keep too many supplies on inventory. I’ve learned to be very creative as I place my orders during the week and look at everything a vendor sells, to meet their minimums.
Meanwhile, I’ve been very surprised. Some vendors don’t even call you back! Big vendors, ones I have worked with for years (like through ICE) and have actually gotten to know the local reps, now that I have my own small business, phone calls are ignored.
Kathryn: I know everything you bake here is gluten free. Is it also dairy free, egg free or cater to other dietary restrictions?
Michelle: Dairy free baking I’ve been doing for a while. I’m starting to get my first orders for egg free cakes, especially birthday cakes for kids.
Jeff: What’s next here for you at Whipped Pastry Boutique? Would you want to have your own Retail (Brick and Mortar) General Patisserie location as well as wholesale production?
Michelle: I have leads to wholesale my dry mixes and we’re starting the process to become HACCP certified. We may need to purchase an x-ray machine as a result. I’m also looking for a distributor for our frozen cookie dough.
Jessie: Thank you Michelle. It’s really great to see that you have more room to expand your kitchen space into this facility as you grow. We’ll follow up with you to get updates on your new business. Congratulations.