Self-taught baker Nicole Bordley owns The Puddin' Shop (504-377-9502; www.thepuddinshop.com), a dessert and baked goods business. which she runs out of her home. A few years ago, Bordley moved from Baltimore to New Orleans with her husband, a counselor who works with underprivileged youth. Bordley spoke with Gambit about baking and running her business, which specializes in bread pudding.
How did you get into the baking business?
Bordley: We had just moved to New Orleans, and I had taken a temp job working at Loyola (University). One day, a friend of mine said Cafe Reconcile needed some help in the baking department. I said, "I've baked before," even though I couldn't really remember how to do any of it. I had worked at alternative schools and at juvenile detention centers, and I think they hired me because of my experience with kids.
At first, the kids that worked there had to show me how to do my job. It was a really wonderful experience that I think will always be a part of me.
It wasn't until taking that job at Cafe Reconcile and eventually becoming the pastry supervisor that I realized this was something I really loved doing. After that I worked at Muriel's (Jackson Square) and after that I kind of wandered (from place) to place for a while. Finally, someone asked me why I didn't just open up my own business, and so I got started slowly, selling my things at the farmers market and through Good Eggs for a while.
How do you manage running your own business?
B: With Good Eggs, I got my products sold through their distributor, and it was really great. I'm really sad that it closed (in August). Now, I'm learning as I go that it's a little bit harder to do it as a home baker all by myself. So I'm trying to go into wholesale, and in the meantime I'm working on a food truck — Thai D-Jing — to help pay the mortgage.
Working for myself I'm pretty much learning the business one day at a time. Not to say that I'm making it up as I go. ... I've had some really good advisors along the way. With the wholesale items ... right now I'm selling through both Fair Grinds Coffeehouse locations ... and sometimes I'm at the farmers market outside Armstrong Park.
I have to stay very optimistic, and every day I'm still learning. I've been doing it for about a year and a half now, and I'm at a point where I'm really settled with what I serve. I've got just three things: cornbread, bread pudding and bagels. Most restaurants serve the same types of bread pudding — I've got about 10 different types from sweet potato to lemon-blueberry and apple pie. I also do a bananas Foster with real bananas in it.
What's next for you?
B: My first goal is to get a very small baking truck and go out to the Lower 9th Ward and to try to sell bread there. Farmers markets are not very cheap here. Even with food stamps and assistance, it's still hard. It's such a food desert (in the Lower 9th Ward) — even if I don't make a ton of money, I think it would be great to be able to bring bread out to them. Jeanette Bell — a gardener who has gardens out there and is working with the community — she's really my inspiration. I think what she's doing is a beautiful thing.