How We Kitchen: Building Something That Matters
Auzerais Bellamy remembers the first time she had a praline candy made with crunchy pecans in a rich, caramelized sugar. The candy was made by a woman who attended the same church as her family and the memory stayed in Auzerais’ mind long after the woman passed away. She wanted to recreate those same flavors and use homemade candy or dessert to provide a small bit of care just as those candies did when she was young. “I just chased that flavor memory through blondie recipes,” she says.
Today, Auzerais owns a virtual bakeshop called Blondery, selling blondies using a recipe she honed in on after many years of working as a pastry chef. If you’ve never had a blondie, it’s similar in texture to brownies but without any chocolate making them golden colored like the name implies.
Below Auzerais describes how her kitchen has helped her create a life where she can nourish herself and others as she pursues her dreams, as well as the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. A portion of sales of her two favorite Material items, The Snack Set and The Iconics, will be donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, a organization she has a personal connection to after a meaningful trip to the Legacy Museum which outlines the connections between American slavery and mass incarceration.
On her first attempts at making blondies
My family owns restaurants in the Bay area so I come from a background of restaurateurs, or just food people in general. Every holiday season, we would get together at one of my family's restaurants and have this big feast. Everyone was in charge of a different portion of the dinner and my mom and all of her kids were in charge of dessert. Back then I made cupcakes and I would make like, two or three flavors using box mixes. As I got older I started adding some pudding to the mix or a little more vanilla, just little tweaks here and there and then one holiday season I came up with the blondies and they weren't good but I felt like they had a lot of potential.
My first few recipes for blondies in my home kitchen, I was trying to make caramelized, melt in your mouth candies but the only way I knew how to make caramel before I went to culinary school was boiling sweetened condensed milk. The blondies were very crumbly at first, because I didn't understand the ratios of ingredients and understand any of that.
2009: The first batch, which was perfected into...
2019: Blondery's signature pecan and salted caramel blondies
On building the confidence to start her own business
In 2016 someone reached out to me and said, ‘hey, are you making blondies this year?’ and I sent them some. I opened my website the next year just for my family and friends and they ended up telling all their family and friends and I sold over 500 orders in two weeks. That's when I was like, this should be a business, but I have to admit, I still needed a little more encouragement.
I always say that entrepreneurship is such a process, a very spiritual process. I was in a really dark place the first few years of moving to New York, and I didn’t feel like people believed in me but I thought, ‘I'm going to prove it to myself. I can do this.’
My ultimate goal with Blondery is to provide a safe space for people who are notoriously marginalized in the fine dining industry, because that was me.
On the best part of entrepreneurship...
I would say the joy when people get their orders and they email me or post about it on social media and they love the product. I get so many of those types of emails and I print out some of them just to remind myself.
I think entrepreneurs usually try to build the places they want to work at, or I hope that's what you're doing when you're starting a company. You should keep in mind that you're going to work there, so what type of place do you want to work at? And that's what I try to keep in mind. I want Blondery to be a place where people can thrive, not just survive.
Blondery's four bestsellers:
pecan and salted caramel, brooklyn blackout, cinnamon sugar and birthday cake
… and the challenging parts
Every part of running a business is not my favorite but I remind myself that I get to do this instead of saying I have to do it. I'm reminding myself right now that everything I'm doing is hopefully setting the standard for when I hire my first full time employee or when we’ve hired our 50th employee.
My grandmother, when she opened her restaurant, only employed her kids and people who were either formerly incarcerated or were really down on their luck... And I never got to ask her why, but now I kind of understand why, because we have to be able to help each other.
On seeing the bigger picture
My ultimate goal with Blondery is to provide safe space for people who are notoriously marginalized in the fine dining industry, because that was me. I wanted to go further in fine dining, but I didn't know how to play the game. I want to teach other people who are looking to go into that field and I hope to be the middle step between them and fine dining where they can be nourished and be nurtured so that they can feel confident walking into those spaces.
I am literally my ancestors' wildest dreams. I'm sure that they dreamed of doing what I'm doing right now.
Why everyone needs to follow and support the work of the Equal Justice Initiative
I took my first trip to the south a few years ago with my mom. We met up in Biloxi, Mississippi (that's where my family's from) and we traveled around the south, visiting different plantations. We went to Whitney Plantation in Louisiana and then we went to the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Justice and Peace in Montgomery, Alabama. We saw the names of some of my ancestors on memorials they have to people who were lynched and it just made it all very real to me. I am literally my ancestors' wildest dreams. I'm sure that they dreamed of doing what I'm doing right now.
I appreciate the Equal Justice Initiative for sharing the very brutal and honest truth about mass incarceration. Everyone needs to see that. It walks you through like our history, but not starting at slavery, starting with us being in Africa, sold into slavery and how the parallels between slavery and mass incarceration are evident. It's not hard to distinguish that it's the same thing.
My grandmother, when she opened her restaurant, only employed her kids and people who were either formerly incarcerated or were really down on their luck, facing homelessness, things of that sort. And I never got to ask her why, but now I kind of understand why, because we have to be able to help each other. I really feel like it's my responsibility to continue to help the Equal Justice Initiative do the work they're doing.
Now through the end of July:
- For every order placed at Blondery, we'll match 35% as a donation to Equal Justice Initiative. Simply screenshot your receipt and tag, message, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org