The holiday season is a special time for cookies, pastries, and other baked treats, and The Pastry Project aims to satisfy – in multiple ways. Co-founders Emily Kim and Heather Hodge teamed up to not only tempt local taste buds, but also to serve the Puget Sound community with free pastry-making job training, a community kitchen including a library and residencies, and events.
Rather than start with one program and build slowly, Kim and Hodge launched a variety of pastry-related efforts all at once. “We always knew we were going to need different revenue streams to earn money to fund the free training program,” Kim said. “From the beginning we’ve been teaching ticketed public classes, and then we started doing a lot of private corporate workshops too.”
To extend their outreach, The Pastry Project also offers a Pastry Subscription. “We launched this during the pandemic, since everyone was at home and it was harder to do in-person things,” Kim shared. “We create different recipes each month and then send the dry ingredients and the instructions to make it to your home each month!”
Kim reports that the subscriptions have been in high demand. “People have absolutely loved these kits,” she said. “Some of the most popular ones are ones we’ve done in collaboration with other businesses, like the Hood Famous Ube White Chocolate Blondies or the Coro Pepperoni Pizza!”
Initially, Kim and Hodge became acquainted while employed at Molly Moon’s Ice Cream. “We met and worked closely together when she was the Head Chef and I was the Director of Social Impact,” Kim recounted. “We worked together during hiring season when I was working with community groups and nonprofits to see about hiring entry-level people into jobs at the company.”
The biggest hiring challenges were in the ice cream kitchens. “We could only hire, as most pastry kitchens do, someone that had at least a little bit of pastry experience or education to be an ice cream chef,” Kim relayed. “We started talking about the barriers and how we could go about breaking them down, which is how we started talking about building The Pastry Project.”
Their love of pastries brings their complementary talents together. “We say we have the same heart, but very different brains,” Kim said. “Heather has a super smart operational and financial brain, and I have a more creative and community connecting brain and passion.”
The pair chose not to duplicate other local restaurant-training efforts such as FareStart.
“It’s a slightly different industry than the restaurant industry, as it requires a different and many times more specialized skill set,” Kim said. “Heather has a degree in Pastry Arts, so she knows about all different kinds of pastries and is really good at teaching everything from beginning cookies to more advanced laminated doughs.”
With the challenge of carrying this vast load on their shoulders, the two have recently hired a couple new staff. “We have a really small team, so we all do a lot of different jobs,” Kim reported. “Heather and I are still probably working three jobs in one.”
Kim’s main title is Community Impact Director. “I work with all of our community partners, which means I work with the nonprofits we’ve partnered with to recruit students to the program each year,” she said. “I connect with our hiring partners to help place students in jobs when they graduate.”
She loves being able to bring so many people together. “I also organize our community events, our donations, and manage our baking residencies,” she said. “An amazing thing I’ve learned is that we have an extraordinary Seattle community that, when asked, will come together to support one another, it’s beautiful to see!”
Plus, there’s good news for those who might like a Pastry Subscription but don’t feel up to baking from scratch. “Our newest product that we created to be a scalable item that we hope can grow this year, and help support and grow our programming, is take-and-bake frozen cookie dough,” Kim said. “We just started getting it into grocery stores, and we ship it nationally once a month!”
And when summer rolls around again, Kim and Hodge will revisit their ice cream roots and their love of soft serve. “We started our soft serve summers,” Kim enthused. “Every June, we open up our shop window and serve soft serve cones!”
The Pastry Project’s Holiday Croquembouche Class runs throughout December at The Pastry Project, 165 South Main Street, Seattle.