During this time where Austin restaurant dining rooms are closed, local bakers and chefs are taking the initiative to sell their own goods, baked and cooked right in their homes, to the public. This way, the chefs stay busy by providing much-needed sweets and food to people while also raising funds for their staffers and themselves at the same time. Eater checked in with three local chefs who are baking and cooking for the public — Olamaie’s Jules Stoddart, Launderette/Fresa’s Laura Sawicki, and Lucky Robot’s Julio-Cesar Florez — on why they decided to do so, what they’re offering, and how it all works.
Olamaie Pastry Chef Jules Stoddart
“It was a hard adjustment going from baking ten hours every day for our guests to not baking at all,” said Jules Stoddart. By baking and selling goods on her own, it “helps me continue to build my skills,” she said, “as well as keeps me working physically and mentally while I provide treats to our community.”
Stoddart’s weekly lineup usually includes kolaches (both sweet and savory) and various baked goods gleaned from her collection of antique cookbooks. She shares a menu every Monday morning on her Instagram account, which changes depending on what’s available. She’s also open to special requests too, albeit at a limited capacity.
Her menu makes ample use of local ingredients, such as sourcing smoked meats from new-school barbecue truck LeRoy & Lewis, honey from Austin Honey Company, coffee from Superthing, and chocolate from Srsly. She is also looking to get produce from local urban farms including Boggy Creek and HausBar in the very near future.
All funds raised will go towards covering her baking costs and then for the staff at Olamaie. “This pause in service is going to be felt for a very long time,” Stoddart explained, “and we want to make sure we can help our team in the best and most efficient way.”
“Ultimately, though, I do this to help keep the Austin restaurant spirit alive,” Stoddart continued.
Launderette and Fresa’s Pastry Chef Laura Sawicki
“We were all desperately searching for ways to navigate the unknown,” said Laura Sawicki. “Baking is the obvious go-to for me.” Since she was already baking for herself at the time, she asked if people were potentially interested in buying cookies, and the answer was a resounding yes.
Sawicki’s cookie lineup is short and to the point: salted chocolate chip, flaxseed oatmeal raisin, and funfetti snickerdoodle. The orders are by-the-dozen and can be placed via direct message on Instagram or through text message. She is delivering the cookies herself too.
As for ingredients, Sawicki has been supplementing her already stocked pantry through grocery runs and Barton Springs Mills orders. She knew to expect shortages on flour and sugar, but was surprised that it’s been difficult to find raisins too.
“I didn’t start this thing with the intention of making money,” Sawicki said, “but rather my intention was to keep myself busy and continue to bake, while sharing my love of cookies with as many people as I could possibly.”
“What started as a little side hustle quickly evolved into a much bigger deal,” Sawicki said. Funds raised will cover her baking costs, and whatever is leftover will be used to take care of the staff at Launderette and Fresa’s.
Lucky Robot Chef de Cuisine Julio-Cesar Florez
During this current hiatus, Julio-Cesar Florez cooked humitas (essentially a Peruvian tamale) for himself and his girlfriend Lizbeth Mejorado. He shared a photo of the dish on his Instagram account, where people immediately asked whether they could buy his food.
“‘Why not take this opportunity to do something of ours and start a little business selling food?’” Florez thought to himself. Mejorado, who is a makeup artist, isn’t working at the moment due to the pandemic as well.
Florez dubbed the resulting venture Birú Cocina Peruana. The Peruvian menu is simple, featuring items that could travel well, i.e. cold dishes or reheatable products, available Thursday through Monday. This meant empanadas, cebiche, and fuller plates such as lomo saltado (stir-fry steak) and aji de gallina (chicken stew). Potential future items include tamales, humitas, and papa a la huancaina (creamy boiled yellow potatoes). He has been sourcing from local purveyors, as well as shopping at supermarkets.
People can reach out to him directly on Instagram, Facebook, or phone. Orders can be picked up from his home in Pflugerville. Funds will help the couple pay for ingredients, as well as help them pay their bills.