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Natasha Pickowicz Transcript

Natasha Pickowicz on the Plight of Pastry Chefs

Kerry Diamond: Hey everyone. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female focused food podcast in the universe. I'm your host , Kerry Diamond, coming to you from Brooklyn, New York. Among the many folks furloughed and out of work right now are the country's top pastry chefs. These positions once seemed like dream jobs and brought with them visibility and awards, but the reality today is somewhat grim as top restaurants either don't reopen or decide that dessert is not a priority. Yet the community of pastry professionals, bakers and dessert makers has been quite resilient in the face of everything. Just look at the success of the Bakers Against Racism project.

Today's guest is very familiar with this scenario. It's Natasha Pickowicz, a Cherry Bombe favorite. Natasha is one of the most celebrated pastry chefs in New York City and is well known for spearheading an annual Planned Parenthood bake sale. Natasha sadly lost her job recently and has been busy processing and responding to the shifting realities around her. But if you know Natasha, you know she's always up to something amazing. She joins us to talk about a new initiative she's co-founded, The Bake Sale Project, which aims to help professional and home bakers with free resources. And we chat about Never Ending Taste, her pop-up taking place July 12th at Superiority Burger in New York City.

Let's do some housekeeping. Thank you to the folks at Breyers CarbSmart and Sonos Move for supporting today's show. Be sure to check them out. We wouldn't have a show without them. Also, I would love for you to check out a new Radio Cherry Bombe mini-series we just launched in collaboration with Chef Tiffani Rozier, host of the Afros + Knives Podcast. This four-part miniseries features interviews with Black women working in the Food Justice Movement. The first episode featuring Jocelyn Jackson of JUTUS Kitchen and People's Kitchen Collective is out now. Listen wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn more about Chef Tiffani and her platform at And thank you to our friends at Traeger Wood Fired Grills for supporting this mini-series. We'll be right back after this word from Sonos Move.

Not only is Sonos the sponsor for today's podcast, they graciously sent me their new premium Sonos Move speaker to test out. I'm very excited because I love listening to music or podcasts when I'm cooking or cleaning my apartment, but I haven't had a proper speaker set up in ages. I just played everything through my phone, not the worst, but definitely not the best. So anyway, I got my Sonos Move, charged it, downloaded the Sonos app and set everything up in about five minutes. I turned on one of my playlist via the Sonos app and Move filled my kitchen with beautiful sound. I'd forgotten how a great speaker can make music sounds so mind-blowing. Some other cool things about Sonos Move, well, it's called Move because it's cordless and once it's charged, you can easily move it around your house or apartment. Whether you're baking in your kitchen, grilling outside, or taking a break in the bathtub, Sonos Move can hang out with you making sure you're surrounded by gorgeous sound. Sonos Move is even weatherproof and drop resistant. How about that? And the design is great. Visit to learn more.

Now here's my conversation with Natasha Pickowicz of The Bake Sale Project.

So Natasha, it's been about a year plus since we talked to you, I think we spoke to you last year, right before the Planned Parenthood bake sale.

Natasha Pickowicz: That's right. Yeah, I can't believe how much has happened in the last year. We were in the talks to plan our fourth bake sale for Altro Paradiso for Planned Parenthood of greater New York, and obviously when the pandemic struck the world, we were forced to cancel the bake sale. Obviously it was no longer feasible or seemed appropriate, but it's also been really fascinating to me to see how people have adapted to this time too and in the pursuit of social justice, pastries are giving back to their community.

Kerry Diamond: You said last year's was the biggest one yet. Tell us about how the sale came about in the first place.

Natasha Pickowicz: Yeah, so the first bake sale was held in spring of 2017 and at the time I was running the pastry programs at Altro Paradiso and Flora Bar, two restaurants in New York, and the presidential election had just happened months before in fall of 2016. So I think that I, like so many other people, felt a lot of helplessness and anger and disappointment and confusion over the results of that and so for me, coming up with the idea of the bake sale was a way to kind of investigate my own resources, my own kind of wheelhouse of what I knew and what I could share with other people and figuring out how to apply that towards something so much bigger than pastry or myself. Yeah, we did three kind of consecutive bake sales over the next three years and the first year we raised about $8,000. And at the time that seemed monumental, it far exceeded my expectations. And then the next year it was $24,000. And then last May we raised over a hundred thousand dollars for PPG NY, and it was extremely life affirming and satisfying event. So of course it was disappointing to have to cancel after we had gotten all this amazing momentum from years past.

Kerry Diamond: How far along had you been in the planning for this year's?

Natasha Pickowicz: Yeah. Pretty far. I think with an event of that scale last year, we had about 70 to 80 different makers, chefs, cookbook writers, private chefs participate not to mention like people we collaborated with for beverages and other media and... It was a huge endeavor. So typically I would start about six months out. So we had our first bake sale meeting the first week of last December. When I lost my job on March 17th, we had actually agreed as a team the week before that we were going to postpone the bake sale until September. But then obviously that postponement eventually just became a cancellation as we became more aware of the scale and the gravity of the pandemic.

Kerry Diamond: You mentioned that you were laid off. Like so many in the restaurant world across the United States, all of a sudden found themselves without jobs.

Natasha Pickowicz: I think it's really important to talk about it, and I want to be transparent about what that was like for me and what it felt like. I think, especially because it has been such an experience shared by so many of my colleagues from pastry cooks or people who are paid hourly to other managers who were staff and at one time running their own departments. Obviously I was devastated. I was on the opening teams for both Altro and Flora. I had run those pastry programs since day one, since minus day one. Something I'm seeing now is that as restaurants are figuring out a way out of this mess in New York, figuring out a way to survive into the future and be sustainable, a lot of restaurateurs are kind of scanning where they can cut, how they can make it work with the leanest team imaginable. And what's the first thing to go? It's pastry.

I was existing in an industry where I was constantly being reminded that the money that I was pulling in for the restaurants was significantly less than what everybody else was doing. Whether it's alcohol sales, savory food, I was always being reminded, "Oh, what you do is actually a very small piece of the puzzle in terms of making this restaurant a successful business." I think it is true, you kind of break down the numbers and that was a big part of my job too, which is... And this is the sort of less glam, less sexy side of running a pastry department, which is constantly monitoring your numbers, making sure you're not spending too much on ingredients, making sure that you're keeping your staff as tiny as possible because every new hire I would make would have to be this intense rationalization for their presence because maybe the overall percentage of sales reflected in pastry was probably single percent... Like a single digit percentage.

The desserts at Flora were like $13, but the entrees are $30 or $40 plus, bottles of wine, $60 plus. Something that I really strongly believe in was that the kind of environment and world and tone that I tried to create at those restaurants also exceeded sort of this idea of just sales. It's also about cultivating values and educational opportunities for staff, meaningful relationships with local nonprofits, like the kind of work that I did with Planned Parenthood and other places. You can't measure those things in dollars.

Kerry Diamond: I mean, from a PR perspective, certainly. I mean, you were one of the most high profile pastry chefs in New York City. So I know it's hard to put a dollar amount on that, but I think that means a lot to a restaurant.

Natasha Pickowicz: I think that when restaurateurs are making those hard decisions, that ultimately isn't a priority for them and I'm not speaking about myself in particular. I'm so lucky that the pastry community in New York City and beyond fostered in a large part due to publications like Cherry Bombe and things like that, but that it is such a nurturing and supportive environment. There's constantly a dialogue happening about, "What are you going through? Are you okay?" There's a very real sense of empathy and communication there that honestly, I can't say for sure if that exists on the savory side, but it is something that I'm very grateful for within the pastry community, as I'm hearing anecdote after anecdote of, it doesn't matter if you've been nominated, if you've won a James Beard Award, it doesn't matter if you are the most visible figure in a restaurant staff. At the end of the day I think pastry in restaurants and fine dining restaurants in particular, is at a real critical juncture in terms of fighting to still be able to play.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I'll be honest. I don't think until I spoke to Paola Velez who we'll talk about in a few minutes, who was one of the folks who spearheaded Bakers Against Racism, but I don't think it was until I spoke to her and then you, that I realized what a precarious position pastry chefs are in right now.

Natasha Pickowicz: Absolutely. I mean, yeah. Speaking with... I really respect Paola and the quality of the conversations that we've had, not just in response to the amazing work she did with Bakers Against Racism, but just yeah, about the industry in general is so revealing. I wouldn't say it feels good to kind of commiserate on that level, but there is like a psychic sense of togetherness that is cathartic.

Kerry Diamond: As someone who's definitely kept tabs on the pastry chef community and the baker community, all of you have 100% risen to the occasion over the past several months. You've done so much for so many nonprofits and charities and I've seen so many of you doing that. Caroline Schiff, who was a Gage & Tollner, and that bakery Butter& out in San Francisco that started the Quarantine Cakes project. What do you think it is about folks in the baker community and the pastry chef community that you've all just responded in this way?

Natasha Pickowicz: I think that with the names that you mentioned, people like Caroline and so many others, I think there is a real absence of ego that would sort of prevent someone from interacting with their community in these different ways of giving back. I'm reminded of... I had this fabulous conversation with Zoë Kanan and Camille Cogswell on the eve of the Bakers Against Racism bake sale because they both had taken it upon themselves to kind of organize their own respective cities in terms of like the bakers that were participating. And yeah, there's an absence of ego and arrogance and people like that. I think really what's at the heart of baking and pastry is the incredible power pastries and baked goods have to kind of bring joy and bring people together. It's like you think about desserts and a fabulous layer cake is celebrating an occasion. It's more than just eating a piece of cake. It's also representative of something else that feels important.

So I think that people who are drawn to pastry understand that it functions in this larger sense of bringing happiness and joy to communities. So obviously, I feel extremely lucky and privileged that despite having lost my job, I've been able to focus on little projects like this that have been giving my life meaning during the last four months or whatever. I know that's obviously not true for everyone, but for me, it's kind of like, well, if I'm not working, then I need to be pursuing relationships with the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, God's Love We Deliver, other nonprofits that are working harder than they've ever been working before in this crisis. So I'm lucky. I'm saying this from a place of privilege, I can not really work and focus more on assisting other organizations. I'm going to continue to do that until it becomes unsustainable.

Kerry Diamond: Are you nervous about what happens once unemployment benefits run out?

Natasha Pickowicz: I know everyone has their own... for the people that apply for unemployment has their own terrible story or frustrations. I waited to file for my unemployment, I think until April, because I was clinging on to this hope that I would get to work or be rehired. And then when that became clear that that wasn't the case, filed for unemployment, waited over 10 weeks before I was able to claim my first round of benefits. So I think for me, it was again recognizing my privilege and being able to survive those few months without relying on those benefits. I'm terrified for my hourly staff. Like I'm terrified for people in industries or food service adjacent industries like florals. Beautiful arrangements you see in restaurants. It's not just people who work in restaurants, it's all of the people who make restaurants possible that circulate around that. At the end of July, when that stipend ends, a lot of people are going to be going down to receiving less than $200 a week for some freelancers or a couple hundred bucks. It's like, we're in New York City, it's not possible. And this global health crisis is also really exposing how fragile the food service industry ecosystem really is. It's like everything fell apart and it's exposing all of these problems within the industry that are leading up to so many people not understanding what's going to happen moving forward.

Kerry Diamond: The unknown is definitely terrifying. You, true to form, are not just waiting for things to happen. You are doing some exciting things. Let's talk about your pop-up.

Natasha Pickowicz: I am starting a weekly Sunday afternoon pop-up at Superiority Burger this fabulous kind of vegan market driven takeaway restaurant thing in the East Village. And earlier in the quarantine for 10 weeks, I was baking pastries out of Archestratus which is a food oriented bookstore and Sicilian Cafe on my block in Greenpoint. That project was really like... It saved me mentally and emotionally in so many ways. The owner Paige Lipari opened the space up to me to work in solitude on my own to make small pastries, to sell and was able to bake from fabulous books like Jubilee by Tony Tipton-Martin, and really explore Paige's cookbooks, and learn new recipes. The act of physically making something, I think, is something that a lot of pastry people really miss right now, that physicality of the work.

I ended my baking there because so many restaurants and businesses are gearing up for like a new phase of reopening. Archestratus too, in response to that, changed some of their things around. So it no longer made sense for me to continue with that project. So Brooks, the chef and owner at Superiority, he kind of figured out that I had been terminated and he checked in on me, which I really appreciated. And he said, "Superiority Burger's just sitting here on the weekends, nobody is here. Do you want to come in and use this space?" And that kind of generosity, it was so moving to me. And he also as someone who's participated in every Planned Parenthood bake sale that I've done, I think is similarly oriented in terms of social justice and values. And so it really seemed like a no brainer, but the thing that really sealed it for me was that Superiority Burger has the exact same Carpigiani gelato machine as the one at Altro Paradiso. This thing... I mean, if you've ever had gelato at Superiority Burger, then you know how exquisite it is.

But this ice cream machine is like the... It's like the Ferrari of the ice cream machine world. It's a beautiful piece of machinery. So I was kind of like, "Oh my gosh." A chance to go to the market, buy from local farms, really reengage with beautiful local produce making sorbets, making some simple pastries, being able to highlight a different organization every week. I mean, I am so excited. My mom was so nervous on my behalf with how I was going to do it. So we're really trying to do this as safely as possible. So we're taking all the payment in advance. It's going to be a no contact handoff. I'm so excited. I'm so excited to share this with people and get back into the markets and spin ice cream.

Kerry Diamond: So I see your menu on your Instagram. Do you want to tell everyone exactly what you're making?

Natasha Pickowicz: I think a lot of it is going to come down to what I find at the market tomorrow morning, Union Square Greenmarket.

Kerry Diamond: So much is in season right now.

Natasha Pickowicz: I know. It's crazy. Right now, I'm thinking about peaches. I'm thinking about currants. Hopefully we'll see some melon at the market as well. I know there are still strawberries. I've seen apricots. So these are the things that are exciting to me. So I want to do kind of like a rainbow sherbet kind of swirl sorbet. We're going to do a gelato double scoop. We'll do a stracciatella, kind of like a mint chip with market herbs and some chocolate gelato. And then of course, we've got to do a layer cake. We're going to do an olive oil cake with some kind of chocolate black sesame mousse.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, the menu sounds amazing. We should give folks some background.

Natasha Pickowicz: The name of the pop-up is actually... Came up with by my mother and she also designed the poster that we've been circulating. She's a visual artist. I basically showed her the style of flyers that Brooks does, with the black Sharpie and the text heavy, and obviously I wanted it to have like my more kind of like femme soft take on it. My mom drew this fruit bowl that she had made from a class that I taught through Kitchen Rodeo, which is this online virtual cooking school. It was like this cooking for equity series, Asian chefs cooking for Black Lives Matter. And she was in attendance. So she sketched the fruit centerpiece that she made, came up with the name, Never Ending Taste, which is kind of like playful and a little weird. So my mom came up with the name, Never Ending Taste.

We had this hilarious spitballing session through text where she was just texting me like nonsensical phrases. And we were kind of just seeing which one made us smile and felt like easy. So if you want to buy any of the goods, you have to do it in advance and reserve your place. So I'm asking that people Venmo me @never-ending-taste, but with hyphens. So @never-ending-taste. Everything is $7, and the proceeds that we're going to make are going to go to the Smiling Hogshead Ranch, which is like a small, urban, volunteer-run farm in Long Island City, which I found out for the first time back in March when we were all in lockdown and I was going on these long walks around Queens, just for hours, just trying to calm myself. And I walked right by this tiny little community farm, which is perched on top of these abandoned railroad tracks in LIC. And reading about the work that they do there, particularly with sustainability, with composting, and ecology in an urban setting has been really inspiring to me. So, hopefully, more people will become aware of the good work that they're doing too.

Kerry Diamond: Pick up is on Sunday, right?

Natasha Pickowicz: Pick up is on Sunday, July 12, 2:00 to 6:00 PM. I still have a few things left of each one. So I'm encouraging people to reach out and put in their reservation.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, it sounds great. And just a little background for folks on Superiority Burg. So Brooks Headley, the founder, owner. Is anyone ever a former pastry chef? I feel like once you're a pastry chef, you're a pastry chef. Brooks was a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef at fancy restaurants over the years, and then decided to kind of leave it all behind and start his own place. Superiority Burg is so tiny. Anybody who's been there or who goes on Sunday to check out what Natasha's up to will see how tiny it is.

Natasha Pickowicz: His identity and history as a pastry chef also, I think that's like such a big part of why I like him so much too. I think he understands pastry and that world. He's definitely somebody I look up to a lot in that regard.

Kerry Diamond: He actually is one of the few guys who's ever written a story for Cherry Bombe. He did a very... Oh my gosh, a few years ago now, about all his female mentors and before pastry, Brooks was a drummer in punk rock bands.

Don't go away. We'll be right back after this word from Breyers CarbSmart.

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Back to my conversation with Natasha Pickowicz of The Bake Sale Project.

The next project that you're in the middle of is called The Bake Sale Project.

Natasha Pickowicz: Yes. Which I don't know if you noticed, but the acronym for it is tablespoon, TBSP.

Kerry Diamond: Who realized that? That's amazing.

Natasha Pickowicz: Great question. So The Bake Sale Project is sort of this initiative started by me and three other close friends of mine who I've formerly worked with and are also kind of service industry vets, these girlfriends of mine are people that I've been talking to regularly since the beginning of the shelter-in-place orders. And we were kind of always united in the sort of conversations that we would have, which was questioning the industry, speculating on the future, bouncing ideas off of each other of the ways that we could continue to participate in the dialogue while we were in different states in some cases. The four of us have all worked together in some way with the bake sales for Planned Parenthood that we had done in the past, but are all now working in different places.

So one woman, Alex Ruhland, she's about to start business school this fall. Lindsey Peckham was formerly the director of branding for Make it Nice and now she's also on... was on furlough, but is gearing up for whatever's to come with reopening EMP and the future of that company. And then Tina Byrne, who was the general manager at Flora Bar, which is how I met her, but also managed at EMP and is currently the general manager at Pastis rounded out our quartet. And she was the one who came up with it. And these are all front of house people. I'm like kind of the sole back of house person in our little group. She kind of connected all those dots and threw that out there. And it was like this... We were like, "Oh my gosh, that's so perfect." It really clicked for us. So I have to give her credit.

Kerry Diamond: So tell us what the mission of The Bake Sale Project is.

Natasha Pickowicz: The Bake Sale Project is really what we see as a growing and evolving collaborative online resource that will explore and document sort of tools and frameworks and history of understanding bake sales. Not just for professional chefs, but also really for home and amateur bakers too. What I've been seeing is so many people reaching out to me privately like through social media or whatever, kind of asking the same refrain of questions. I don't understand the logistics of this. How do I reach out to a nonprofit? What is the right kind of tone with messaging? How do I track my budget? How can I do a safe, no contact handoff if I want to do a bake sale? How can I replicate doing a bake sale so that it's sustainable from within and within my means?

Just speaking from experience of having done them, they're giant undertakings with many different facets of production that sometimes require multiple people in terms of delegation to execute. Like last year, for example, was the first time that we had ever had kind of like a street team of volunteers and that was really inspired by what I saw at the Jubilees that you guys have done. And I was kind of cribbing directly from that model, but even just adding that one dimension to it was just... it opened up like a whole new set of responsibilities and deadlines that had to be done. And I think that what people are really looking for are resources and tactics and strategies that will help empower people to sort of take it on themselves. Because if restaurants aren't doing that right now, if I'm not working in a restaurant and doing a bake sale, we're kind of seeing this power shifting and dispersing into households and I'm so inspired and fascinated by that. Like I want to help people with whatever I know, and that information should be free. Like there shouldn't be anything preventing somebody from executing something like that if they want to do it.

So we want to give that to people for free. Part of that is going to be a website that's going to provide resources, testimonies, oral histories, spotlights on professional and amateurs, as well as our own narratives and histories. And kind of do that in tandem with a series of webinars where we can highlight people within the industry that we think are doing powerful or notable work. So the first thing that we did last month in June was me in conversation with the Bakers Against Racism co-founders Willa, Rob and Paola. It's been very empowering for me to shift the focus of bake sales away from me doing it to, okay, giving people tools to do it on their own outside of New York, like across the country, beyond the country. The bake sale is such an American idea and tradition. So like, what does that look like once it leaves the country? Like how do people engage and understand that kind of idea that's rooted in the household and kind of domestic baking?

Kerry Diamond: It was very exciting with Bakers Against Racism to see Bakers Against Racism, London and Paris. Do you remember bake sales from when you were a child?

Natasha Pickowicz: Yeah, I fully do and I think that an important distinction to make is that bake sales aren't necessarily radical or a means for social change or justice, but what they do do is provide a framework for making those things possible. So when I think about bake sales of my childhood, I think about like raising money for basketball uniforms, I think about like cakewalks in my elementary school to raise money for a field trip. They're fundraising tools that bring neighborhoods together. But our memories of what the offerings are, like I remember making brownies from a box. And that's all fine too, but I think that The Bake Sale Project wants to tie together the craft and pursuit of baking from scratch with the framework for having an event like The Bake Sale, kind of take it to this current moment.

Kerry Diamond: Let's talk a little bit more about the Bakers Against Racism. I mean, what that achieved is just remarkable. I think they're up to $1.9 million raised by all bakers across the world. Why do you think that took off the way it did?

Natasha Pickowicz: It also kind of comes back to what we were talking about a little bit earlier with this idea of like, why is it that so many pastry chefs have lost their jobs, but are continuing to contribute or interact with their communities in these kinds of ways? I think that at the beginning of the pandemic early March, mid-March we saw a real surge in making from home, baking from home and people engaging with that kind of craft on a level that they probably never had before, with the bread baking and pastries and all of this. I think it gives people a sense of purpose and it feels... like it makes you feel really powerful to be able to make something like that happen in your home, especially when you just have so little control over everything else that's going on.

I think that part of the strength in the Bakers Against Racism initiative is that it wasn't just singling out professionals to participate. It was really a clarion call for anybody. It wasn't about whether you are a pro or not. It was just whether or not you wanted to participate. I was hearing from a lot of people who are kind of like, "Oh, I feel so helpless beyond..." What are the normal practices that we engage with? Voting, signing petitions, social media sharing information. Like these are all things that we should already always be doing. But I think that for some people they're kind of like, "Well, is there something else?" Like, "What's that other... Is there just like another more physical, tangible way of pursuing personal activism within my community?" And the bake sale I think that like creating something, like baking something from scratch and having that be the way that you are raising money, I think that... It's like a powerful feeling.

And hearing from people who are like, "I raised $600. I raised $1,100." It's like it breaks down these preconceived ideas that they didn't think it was possible before. What The Bake Sale Project really wants to do is kind of interrogate how all those people are doing now that that first bake sale is over. They did that first bake sale, they raised $600, but now the followup questions are, well, I'm not a pro and my network is really small. Can I really keep bothering the same people in my community over and over again to buy these things? Or how is this sustainable if I spent $150 on ingredients, but only raised like $500? There's like a set of concerns about how to make this a sustainable discipline moving forward, to be able to replicate and do it again.

I've been having conversations with people like Judy Kim, who did the first bake sale for Bakers Against Racism, turned right around did another one. And I had a conversation with her where she was like, "Oh, I learned so much from doing it the first time. There's so many ways that I want to change this and make it better. I'm just going to do it again while all this stuff is in my head." And she managed to streamline it for herself. That learning curve is super real. Like the bake sale I did year one to the bake sale I did year three, it's like two different people organized that event. It's just there was much information and knowledge gained.

So I think that we want to embrace the excitement that people feel from the incredible success of this initiative and then also give people tools to figure out how they can incorporate it into their lives moving forward.

Kerry Diamond: Natasha, how can our listeners help The Bake Sale Project? What sort of resources or help are you looking for right now?

Natasha Pickowicz: We're currently in the process of building out our website. An important aspect of the first wave of information that we share are going to be a series of testimonials and oral histories about people who have organized events in their own communities across the country. So I'm currently in the process of collecting and documenting those narratives. And anybody can always email me at or if you don't want to reach out to me directly, but you want to speak to Tina or Lindsay or Alex, we also have or their first name I would love to continue to hear from people who want to share their stories good and bad, because being able to get a larger sense of people's experiences by sharing these histories is going to be an important learning tool. So if people have stories, photos, anecdotes, revelations, feedback for how they did it, how their first one was or whatever it may be, I would love to hear about it and I would love to hear from those people. Yeah. So they can definitely reach out in that way.

Other than that, we're still in pretty nascent stages of putting all these materials together. So it's more like a stay tuned kind of vibe.

Kerry Diamond: And you're definitely looking for brands to partner with and help underwrite this?

Natasha Pickowicz: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It's interesting. I think that this idea of partnering up with a brand or a business is important, but should be done in like a nuanced way. I mean, I know that you guys have several meaningful ongoing partnerships with brands that make things like Jubilee possible or whatever and I think that in some ways it is necessary in terms of making this a sustainable project for us with whatever expenses that happen to come up. Like right now, we're just kind of... And also for not just expenses, but for amplifying what we are doing. That was something that always was kind of missing from the bake sales that I had done in the past, because we're so pointedly supporting Planned Parenthood, we saw that businesses in general were reluctant to ally or support the bake sale because of the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortions. That was a deal breaker for many, many, many, many, many brands and businesses that we reached out to.

What it did end up looking like was that the businesses that did support us were local, independently owned really understood what we are doing, but the bigger brands, it was just too dicey. It was too controversial. They didn't want to alienate their brands, their base. Which is like, it is what it is.

For this project for sure I think that because such a big part of this project is this idea of providing like inclusive, equitable access to information for everyone that if we do partner up with a business, they will have to understand what that looks like. And I'm really interested in employee owned businesses and co-ops. There aren't very many examples of that that exist in the bakery cafe world. I mean, that I know of. It's something that I'm thinking a lot about.

Kerry Diamond: Also, I should point out you're Asian American. This is not been a kind time to the Asian American community. I mean, you look at what's happening to our Chinatowns across the country and just the really awful racism that's being directed toward the Asian American community.

Natasha Pickowicz: Absolutely. I mean, so many of these issues that just seem to be about like treating other people with compassion and respect and kindness have become politicized and it makes me feel sick. One of the things that this pandemic has done for myself and for so many others is you're thrown into quarantine, you're... I live alone. I live in a tiny studio apartment in Greenpoint. I'm alone with my own thoughts and suddenly I'm spending months unpacking all of these complicated things internally that when you're in New York City, it's go, go, go. No time to slow down and kind of reflect. It's just got to get through this, got to get through this event, got to get through this quarter, got to hit these numbers. And then it was like, everything came to a halt. Yeah, I was able to reflect on my identity as a Chinese American person, as a daughter of an immigrant. Those were things that I don't spend enough time reckoning with internally.

I read as very white, even though I am biracial and I think that continuing to amplify Asian and Asian American, particularly chef voices in the food sphere is something that is really meaningful to me. And collaborating with my mom with projects like this pop-up, Superiority Burger is a big part of that too in terms of being able to embrace that lineage and that history. Because it is so vile. It's like absolute worst in every system and in every person is sort of bubbling to the surface right now, but there's also a lot of like really beautiful things happening now. And it's that tension is creating a lot of fascinating projects like this Bakers Against Racism project. I mean, it's just such a crazy moment that we're in right now. I feel this is... Last Friday, July 3rd, sorry, was my eight year anniversary of living in New York City. I'm by nature a very sentimental person. I love to be nostalgic and reflect and pour over those memories in my mind.

I remember moving here eight years ago as a pastry cook, paid $11 and 10 cents an hour or whatever. My paycheck was less than $350 a week, but what a city! And I felt so lucky that the city that has given me so many opportunities and I've been able to do so many things in the time that I have been here and I feel really committed. Like I've been in New York this entire time since March. I haven't left, which is a choice that everyone makes. And I just decided to say. I hope that we use this opportunity, this moment to not just advocate for others in this moment, but to make it just the way that we want to be always forever moving forward, whether it's questioning the industries that we work in or playing a more active role in community activism, practices like bake sales and grassroots things, then... If this makes everyone wake up and kind of change permanently, then that is one silver lining.

Kerry Diamond: Well, we'll end on one more positive note. I forgot to mention earlier, Paola has a new job. Paola Velez who we've been talking about, one of the co-founders of Bakers Against Racism. Now the pastry chef at Maydan and Compass Rose in Washington, D.C.

Natasha Pickowicz: That's right.

Kerry Diamond: So if we have any D.C. listeners out there, be sure to check out Maydan and Compass Rose.

Natasha Pickowicz: We were chatting about it and I was like, "Congratulations. You're giving me a lot of hope." I have so much conviction that she's going to do the absolute most in terms of pursuing these visions in her new role at those programs. It's so great. I'm happy for her. Yeah, and there are so many other restaurants that are doing terrific work right now. I think there's a lot of confusion and mixed messages about how we can best support those places without compromising public health. There are always ways that you can donate that don't involve even going out. So I hope that people are mindful of that and still support and reach out to those places that they care about.

Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. Well, Natasha, you and Paola have been such leaders and I think the world of you. I hope you've known that all these years, but thank you for everything you've done.

Natasha Pickowicz: Thank you so much.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's show. If you'd like to support Natasha's work, check out her Instagram @natashapickowicz and see what's going on with our new initiative at and don't forget her pop-up at Superiority Burger, July 12th. Pre-order details are available on her Instagram.

Thank you to Breyers CarbSmart and Sonos Move for supporting today's show. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Hang in there everybody, and thank you for listening. You're The Bombe.

When Harry Met Sally Clip: I'll have what she's having.

Pooja Bavishi: Hi, this is Pooja Bavishi, founder of Brooklyn based Malai ice cream. Do you know who I think is The Bombe? Padma Lakshmi. Because she is able to amplify and provide a platform to the most underserved voices in food. Case in point, her Taste the Nation series on Hulu. It's quite frankly, The Bombe.