Facing Your Dreams (Why A Chemist Becomes A Baker)

I’ve loved science from the beginning. It’s pretty much been a love/love relationship from the start.

My mom tells this story about how, when I was 1 ½ years old, I learned how to climb out of my crib one night. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a big mixing bowl, I grabbed an egg and relish from the fridge, and then grabbed the bottle of Prell shampoo from the bathroom. I mixed it all together and proceeded to rub it everywhere, including all over myself. She argues that that was when she knew I was smart. Maybe that was the budding chemist inside of me 😉


Budding Baker/Chemist

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Marie Curie when I grew up. I played chemist with my friends at an early age. We made some cool looking mixtures with flammable things that I now know are dangerous (luckily no one ever got hurt). Looking back, when I made the choice to go into science and study chemistry, it made sense. And I’ve had a great and rewarding career as a scientist.

But I didn’t come from a sciencey family. Growing up I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom and my grandmother. I mean literally. When my mom couldn’t find a babysitter for my brother and I, we would go into work with my mom. She happened to work in the kitchen of a restaurant. Fortunately for her, my brother and I were excellent silverware washers 🙂

My grandmother worked in a diner at 5th and Penn in Reading, PA. She worked the counter so she was the short order cook and the server.


Grammy at 5th and Penn

My mom started as a cook at a small restaurant chain in PA and worked her way up to general manager. They chose her to open their newest and biggest restaurant.

I started working for a restaurant supply company at the age of 14. When I was 16, I worked in my mom’s restaurant as a cook. It turns out that my great-grandmother (my mom’s mom’s mother) was a baker. Truthfully, I believe it is in our blood.


Three Generations – Mom, Me, and Grammy

So growing up, even when not in a restaurant, I was in the kitchen with my mom and/or my grandmother learning how to cook and bake. I love to cook and thinks it’s a lot of fun, but baking is a spiritual experience for me. It connects me to my earliest memories of baking Christmas cookies with my mom and my grandmother; it calms me when I’m over stressed; it brings me joy (when the recipe turns out well); and it even plays into my scientist brain (working on a new recipe is an experiment!).

Though I am a scientist, I have also dreamed of being a baker. I have baked on the side and sold specialty baked items (gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, etc.) for the past 5 years. My fiancée and I have talked about what it would take to open a bakery. So in August, when I was connected with someone looking for a baker to open a gluten-free bakery (my specialty), facing my dream became a reality.

So what would you say if someone was willing to pay you a salary to follow your dream? Of course the answer is YES!!!!!

That’s not to say that it’s a not bit scary to leave everything that I know to start this new adventure. I mean, we’re moving to Georgia (where I know maybe 3 people), my fiancée is moving away from his business, and I’m leaving a successful career in science.

But when your dream comes a knocking, the only thing to do is jump in both feet. Keep your eyes open for Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Bakery outside of Atlanta in 2016!

– Nicole

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5 Responses to Facing Your Dreams (Why A Chemist Becomes A Baker)

  1. Aileen Mooney says:

    The owner of The Happy Tart in Del Ray Alexandria used to be an immunologist. You guys should chat!


  2. Pamela McGonigal says:

    Congratulations to you both!

  3. so proud of you and your decision!

  4. ying says:

    I can’t believe my eyes but I am very happy for your new life and admire much.

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