If you haven't had the opportunity to enjoy desserts from Black Jet Baking Company, our hearts hurt for you. Their oat bottom brownies, brown butter blondies, caramelized macaroons and seasonal jam-filled PoPs are rich, delightful and non-fussy comfort treats. Black Jet's Founder, Gillian Shaw, was kind enough to kick-off our dream job series by answering a few questions about her work.
When and how did you first become interested in baking?
Pretty much from the get go! My family is a bunch of bakers and amazing cooks. My sister makes a mean Lemon Meringue Pie (that I can't even come close to). I would love waking up early to make muffins while everyone was still snoozin'. I still have my first recipe cards for sour cream coffee cake, cranberry orange muffins and oat bottom brownies. They must be close to 30 years old. Eesh...
If you could only eat ONE of your baked goods, which would it be?
Hmmmm...that is tricky. I would have to say my current obsession, which is our cornmeal galettes - we are jamming them full with seasonal fruit. I had a nectarine apricot one for breakfast today. It would be hard to say goodbye to the devil dogs... or the oreos.... or the new jelly rolls....
What's the most challenging aspect of your work?
I would say that is is pretty much 24/7. I should be doing something related to Black Jet pretty much every minute of each day. I miss my family and my friends on the East Coast (and in town for that matter :) and wish I could take off and spend a month there, but, at this point, it isn't in the cards. I miss sleep, too. My cell phone is an extension of my hand and that can be a touch challenging.
If you were starting all over again, what advice would you give yourself?
I would advise to carve out time for yourself and be very strict about it. There is always going to be quickbooks to do, or doughs to make or clients to call or emails to return, but if you don't take a moment to go for a walk or stare at a wall, you will go crazy. I would also advise going to my chiropractor, Colin Phipps - he is a miracle worker.
What advice would you give to someone who'd like to start a similar career?
I would intern - at a bakery, at a pastry department at a restaurant, at a hotel, etc. Figure out what type of baker you want to be. I learned quickly that sugar work and chocolate work was not my forte and that I was a baker at heart. Be open to learning and know that you are going to get your ass kicked and your feet are going to scream at you and your body will be more tired than it's ever been, but at the end of the day you have created delicious things. What's better than that?!
What's the craziest baking project you've had?
That would be the cupcakes we made for a SQUARE event that were made to look like the Android symbol. They were hilarious - neon green... you get the idea. Runner-up for the craziest project was the night we made 800 Pop tarts and shipped them the next day across the country. It's possible there were many tears.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Gillian! Readers, you can find Black Jet Baking Company in the Ferry Building and at cafes around SF listed here.