One of the things that stayed with me the most after finishing In the Company of Women was seeing just how many of the business owners I interviewed use their companies to give back. From painters and poets to fashion houses and textile designers, almost everyone found a way to use their work to support and uplift the communities around them. So this year we’re starting a special series highlighting businesses and individuals that have found a way to connect their passion for giving back with the work they do every day.
Today we’re starting with Maya-Camille Broussard, a talented and prolific baker, designer, and creative entrepreneur from Chicago, Illinois. We first met Maya in 2016 when she talked with us about all the things she’d learned about life and work from baking. Her project, Justice of the Pies (which you can order online or find in markets around Chicago), was a huge success and she’s shared those lessons from the culinary world in a must-see TED talk from 2016. Getting to know Maya-Camille and her work has been an absolute joy and I’ve been so excited to see her latest project come to life: the I KNEAD LOVE Workshop.
I KNEAD LOVE is a culinary workshop for 6th-8th graders from at-risk, low-income communities. In this one-day intensive class, Maya-Camille teaches young adults kitchen skills, how to be creative, and how to sustain themselves (and their families) nutritionally. I wanted to know more about how Maya-Camille came up with this project, how she funded it, and how it could inspire people reading to start similar projects that support their local community. So I reached out to my better half, Julia Turshen, and she sat down with Maya-Camille to talk about how I KNEAD LOVE came to be, how it was structured, and what advice Maya-Camille has for people who’d like to connect their businesses to more community-based work. Read on for the full interview and stay tuned for two great recipes from the workshop this afternoon! (Quiche at 11am and Apple Pie at noon!) xo, Grace
*P.S.: Julia and Maya-Camille are part of a great new site that launched last week, E.A.T.T. — a resource that highlights marginalized voices in the food community.
Photography by HOMEGRWN Creative
What is “I Knead Love” and when did you start it?
The I KNEAD LOVE Workshop is a culinary intensive for 6th-8th graders that reside in at-risk, low-income communities. It is a one-day culturally enriching workshop that teaches young adults basic kitchen skills, making healthy eating choices, how to properly prep and prepare food, be inspired by culinary entrepreneurship, and to exercise their creative muscles while engaging in an activity that will help to sustain them nutritionally. It began in 2017 as a collaboration between Justice of the Pies and DreamOn Education.
I Knead Love takes time away from your full-time work and you don’t make money doing it - why is it important to you to extend what you do to your community?
Being an entrepreneur is a full-time job paired with a part-time job. You’re often working from the moment you open your eyes until the moment you close them for bed. Entrepreneurship requires a special kind of talent. And when I think about why I use my talents to also dedicate [them] to the I KNEAD LOVE Workshop, I am reminded of the Leo Buscaglia quote, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift […] back to God.” Another quote that comes to mind is a favorite that my Southern Grandma used to always say, “Closed mouths don’t get fed and closed hands can’t get bread.” The same hand that is open to receive ought to be the same hand that is open to giving — freely and without expecting anything in return. It’s important to extend what your do to your communities because it’s one of the only ways to continue to cultivate a hub of creativity and excellence. As a woman and as a person of color, people who look like me are often marginalized. I’ve been blessed to have an amazing network of supporters to have helped me to elevate my talents, my career and my brand.
I feel that it's a personal responsibility to be a vessel of undoing these effects of marginalization whenever possible.
For others who might want to do something similar in their own communities, can you break down, logistically and financially, how you make I Knead Love work?
If you want to do something similar in your line of work, you can begin to give back by first deciding what you most love to do and how [it will] make an effective impact to those it’s meant to help. Do you want to work with the youth and teach them something? Do you want to work with the elderly and provide comfort? Decide how much will it cost to pull it off and where could you possibly get the funds from? Justice of the Pies is formed as an L3C and DreamOn Education is a 501(c)3. Therefore, donations towards our initiative are are tax-deductible. Kelli Haywood (of DreamON Education) and I did a crowd funding campaign since our workshop is in its early stages. We also received a lot of in-kind donations as well. Next, Kelli and I will seek more grant opportunities and will aim to work with the City of Chicago to explore funding options. We’re also open to taking our initiatives and activating it in other cities!
Knowing most things take a village to succeed, can you share a bit more about who you partnered with to make I Knead Love happen?
In the same way that I’ve had an outstanding village to support my personal success, I’ve had an amazing network of allies and partners who’ve supported the I KNEAD LOVE initiative. Julia Turshen is a celebrated cookbook author who graciously allowed me to contribute to her cookbook, Feed the Resistance, early last year. Turshen has not only become a friend, but she has used her well-known status in the culinary world to rally others around the workshop. As a result, we’ve received so many gracious donations from various partners. It was important for me to not just teach the kids skills and recipes in the kitchen, but give them the literal tools so that they can take what they’ve learned in the workshop and continue practicing at home. OXO made this possible by graciously donating an insurmountable amount of kitchen wares, the hip and rising-workwear star TILIT NYC donated all of the aprons, and MIYABI donated the chef knives. In addition to supplies, I KNEAD LOVE Workshop needed ingredients! Kerrygold donated its amazingly tasty Dubliner cheese. Kitchen Chicago donated its kitchen spaces. It was also important for me to to capture the day’s events so that we can share it with the world and garner even more support for our initiative. Caroline Taft and Chris Pestel of HomeGrwn Creative stayed with us for the entire day and shot beautiful images of the kids. They even got in the action [a] bit and helped the kids with their prep!
How do you hope kids leave I Knead Love - what lessons and feelings do you hope they take with them?
When kids leave the I KNEAD LOVE Workshop, I am hoping that they’ve learned something that they can build on. Kids can be very picky eaters, thus urging them to try new ingredients while cooking and baking expands their palate. I hope that the kids are inspired to continually exercise their creativity in the kitchen. More importantly, when the workshop is over, I see the pride of the kids’ faces and that warms my heart. Their esteem has been raised several notches. Working in the kitchen can seem intimidating and knowing that they can conquer the kitchen and walk away with something delicious creates a higher sense of security. I’m a practitioner of various genres of art and the culinary arts is the only form that allows for creativity and self-sustaining through sustenance. That is why this workshop is especially special and effective.
Why was it important to you to not only make pies with the kids, but also give them the tools to make them on their own?
It was so important for me to make sure the kids had tools to continue cooking and baking at home because this group of talented, curious and creative kids don’t have the resources, privilege and access to own these tools. I cannot expect them to continue to be creative if I cannot provide them with everything they need to express themselves culinarily.
Why pie? What does pie mean to you, and why do you think it’s a good thing to teach kids how to make?
I choose to teach how to make pies because as a baker with my own bakery, I know that pies are a timeless, non-trendy fare that can be served as a sweet or savory option. Additionally, I knew the kids would enjoy the buttery, rich flavors of the crust which could be filled with highly nutritional, healthy ingredients. The balance of butter and starch with healthy proteins and vegetables is something that is healthy, all-natural and easy for the kids to duplicate at home.
Butter or shortening or lard or a combination?
I tend to make all-butter crusts because I want to make my pies as all-natural as possible. I know so many people who do not want to consume pork by-products as found in lard, so it’s often easier for me to just use butter. I make sure that the butter is very cold when cutting it into my flour in order to ensure it’s just as flaky as it would be if I were using lard or shortening!
Mentorship is very important to me because there is absolutely no way I could have done as well as I have in my life and in my business without having my own.
What does it mean to you to be a mentor, specially as a woman of color who is differently-abled?
Mentorship is very important to me because there is absolutely no way I could have done as well as I have in my life and in my business without having my own. Claudia Gordon, the first Black deaf female attorney, guided me with advice as I delved into adulthood while living with a disability. Daniel Caballero, of Sofrito Foods, LLC, has been an immense amount of support for me as I grow Justice of the Pies. If I have to take a business conference call and I’m unsure that I’ll be able to properly hear the person on the other line, Daniel will gladly step in to interpret for me; and since we’re both food entrepreneurs, he’s able to directly relay everything to me while understanding exactly what’s happening during these conversations. I lean heavily on my mentors who understand me as they are also either living with a disability as well or who are in the same business space as I am. Thus, I make myself available especially to women and women of color… as a Black woman, I know that my experience can help make someone else’s navigation a bit easier.
Who taught you how to make and bake pies?
I created Justice of the Pies in memory of my late-father, Steve Broussard. My Dad was a criminal defense attorney with a hobby for baking pies. However, he was EXTREMELY competitive. He’d call my Aunt Sandy to brag about his quiches that he made early that Saturday morning and he’d tell her to create one so they could compare them side-by-side to see who is the better baker. It was quite annoying but hilarious, but it was his way of encouraging creativity and excellence. He loved pies, but I did not allow him to teach me because his competitive drive would have the then-teenaged Maya-Camille rolling her eyes so much that she would not see her two hands or the food in front of her. I learned how to bake from my aunt Sandy and my great-aunt Ruby.