Bake sales for financial fixes have been a Southern go-to for decades, so Alabama’s culinary community is using it as a way of helping a favorite institution.
It’s the brainchild of this week’s featured chef at the market, Kristen Hall, co-owner and executive pastry chef of The Essential and Bandit Patisserie. With that pedigree, you might guess this isn’t going to be your typical bake sale.
“I love the idea of taking something that is such an old-school sort of fundraiser and moving that into our industry,” Hall told Alabama NewsCenter. “We have such an amazing food and beverage industry here in Birmingham.”
That food and beverage industry includes a thriving food media business, which is also lending participants to the bake sale.
For instance, Hunter Lewis, editor-in-chief at Food & Wine magazine, is making salted caramel brownies. Then you have those who are familiar to the Birmingham restaurant scene, like Adeeba Khan of the Shu Shop. But instead of making her well-known ramen, she is making biscuits.
Other participating bakers and chefs include Sayward Estis, Eva Faison, Janét Lee Norman, Victor King, Diego Carvallo, Sarah Ward, Ferrell Carter, Emily Nabors Hall, Cari Gantt, Telia Johnson, Brian Hart Hoffman, Brooke Bell, Neville Baay, James Lewis, Ruth Blackburn, Katie Barreira, Tricia Manzanero. Participating restaurants, bakeries and businesses represented include Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Bottega Restaurant, Chez FonFon, Bettola, Continental Bakery, Birmingham Breadworks, El Barrio, The Essential, Bandit Pâtisserie, Shu Shop, Telia Johnson Cakes, Dreamers Supply Company, Meredith Food Studios, and Hoffman Media.
“I wondered if I could take this very nostalgic, sort of mom-and-pop, homegrown fundraiser and sort of turn it on its side a little bit and utilize professional pastry chefs, chefs and restaurant owners to raise money for Jones Valley,” Hall said.
Leigh Sloss-Corra, executive director of the Market at Pepper Place, said items for the bake sale began selling out immediately on the market’s website. It’s the kind of response they’ve seen since they launched the featured chef at the new drive-thru market due to COVID-19.
The featured chef initiative takes the place of the chef demos at the traditional market with the goal to “remind the public of what amazing options they have beyond the market.”
The first featured chef a few weeks ago was Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club, who sold 1,400 tomato salads. Last weekend, Rodney Scott of Rodney Scott’s BBQ was helping customers get their Memorial Day weekend off to a tasty start.
Hall wanted to use her featured time to promote Jones Valley Teaching Farm, a program that “encourages academic exploration and achievement through food, farming and the culinary arts” by working with schools, after-school programs and field trips.
“Besides being an extraordinary chef who makes beautiful, beautiful food, she also is really committed to giving back to the community,” Sloss-Corra said of Hall. “This weekend is an example of how she’s doing that.”
Hall said she had planned on having a bake sale at the traditional Market at Pepper Place on Mother’s Day weekend, but COVID-19 ended that plan when it led to the current contact-free, drive-thru market.
When she realized that many in her industry are not as busy with curbside service as they typically would be, she decided to see if she could pull off a bake sale anyway.
“I made a few phone calls and started texting people and it was really great we got these great responses,” she said.
The responses were partly because of the universal love of Jones Valley Teaching Farm and the Market at Pepper Place, but also because it gave the bakers and chefs something to focus on other than the effects of COVID-19.
Pre-orders will continue through Friday, May 29 for pickup at the market between 7 a.m. and noon on Saturday, May 30. Although items continue to sell out, more items may be added, so Hall said to continue checking the site. And don’t forget to order from the other farmers and vendors at the market.
Selling out didn’t come as a surprise to Hall.
“People want carbs, they want comfort, they want all of the things that make them feel loved and cherished,” Hall said.