In Elite Daily I have the job you want series, we tell the stories of people working in the most ridiculous, incredible, and utterly envious fields you ever thought possible. In this piece, we speak to a baker who honors her father by fighting for real change, one pie at a time.
Maya-Camille Broussard vividly remembers the first time she baked something on her own: she was in third or fourth grade and she made blueberry muffins from a “Jiffy” mix box without the adult supervision. Her aunt and cousins taught her how to cook, and tables full of baked goods at her childhood swimming meets showed her new recipes to try. Over the years, weekends have become Broussard’s baking time, and she’s baked everything from Rice Krispie treats to lemon pound cake. Fast forward to 2014, and she turned that passion into a project with a career running her own social justice-focused bakery, Justice of the Pies, in Chicago. Eight years later, she has nearly 40,000 social media followers and a devoted fanbase that even includes a former president.
But it wasn’t until many years later that Broussard considered baking as anything more than a hobby. In 2009, Broussard lost her father – a criminal defense lawyer who loved cooking so much he called himself the “Pie Master” – just a week before she was supposed to open an art gallery and bar. in Chicago. A cousin suggested starting a pastry foundation as a tribute — something to “teach kids to make pies,” as Broussard recalls. But it took a few more years for the idea to take effect.
My mission is to have a positive impact on the lives of others.
In August 2014, Broussard went to visit another cousin in San Francisco, where she wandered into a bakery that hired displaced teenagers. As she ordered her food, “a light went on [on],” she said. She thought, “I’m supposed to do something like this. The very next day, she went into research and development, experimenting with different pie recipes. That’s how Justice of the Pies was born: although her aunt suggested the “pie master’s daughter” as the name of the bakery, Broussard ultimately chose something that would play on “the justice of the peace”, in homage to her father’s career.
To launch the business, Broussard raised $7,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. She tested her flavors by selling pies at local farmers’ markets and art fairs, but as of 2022 she’s expanded — her pies ship nationwide on Goldbelly.
Still, it’s a well-run operation: Justice of the Pies currently works out of a 250-square-foot kitchen with just one assistant, and Broussard’s mother — a retired doctor — occasionally volunteers to help. Two days a week, Broussard focuses on administrative tasks like answering emails and ordering supplies. On Wednesdays, she heads to the kitchen, where she meets her helper. Together they prepare all their bulk orders and prepare for the farmers markets of the week. Then comes Thursday morning, when Broussard wakes up between 4:45 and 5 a.m. and heads to the markets, where she has to unload her car and settle in for the day. By the time Friday rolls around, Broussard needs time to recuperate, so she meets her assistant later in the morning and they then prepare for the following week.
If that sounds exhausting, that’s because it is. Before, she worked in the kitchen seven days a week, but now she works more often from home, in order to find a balance. “I used to go, go, go until I passed out from being exhausted,” she says.
She credits her pup, Milo, adopted in July 2022, by slowing it down a bit (for the better). Adopting Milo “required me to go for a walk outside and breathe fresh air and feel the sunlight against my face. It’s the little moments of balance versus being in a kitchen under a fluorescent light for 14 hours.
It’s not like I come home smelling of sugar and buttercream.
Balance is important in other ways, too: Broussard notes that she didn’t want Justice of the Pies to be just a bakery; rather, she sees it as a “social mission in the form of culinary art”. However, she does not want to be pigeonholed for any specific purpose. “My mission is to have a positive impact on the lives of others,” she says. “The way I do this may change over time.”
For example, in 2017 she launched the “I Knead Love” workshop, which aims to tackle food insecurity by teaching elementary and middle school students in low-income communities basic cooking and nutrition skills. , helping them become more independent in the kitchen. Before the pandemic, Broussard aimed to hold the workshop in person four times a year, but shifted to a virtual format in 2020 and 2021. She put “I Knead Love” on hiatus in 2022 to focus on building partnerships , collecting donations, fighting for non-profit organizations. status, and set up her new space, which she will then use to resume the workshops in person.
During the pandemic, she also mobilized the resources of Justice of the Pies to help provide more than 3,000 meals for healthcare workers at hospitals on the south and southwest sides of Chicago. She also provided about 2,000 meals to a women’s and children’s shelter, to support vulnerable Chicago residents who have been impacted by the pandemic. In addition to this, Broussard has been a regular contributor to the Love Fridge, a Chicago-based self-help initiative. The program places refrigerators in several Chicago neighborhoods, and city residents can either donate what they can or take what they need.
But there are big changes ahead for Broussard. Thanks to a grant from Talenti Gelato and Sorbetto, Broussard is set to open a much larger space on Chicago’s South Side, where she grew up. As part of a partnership with Black Food Folks – “a community of black professionals” working in the food and beverage industry – Talenti honors Broussard as a culinary creative hero. Broussard is using the grant to build his new 4,000 square foot space thoughtfully and intentionally.
As a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community, it was important for Broussard to design his new space with accessibility in mind. For one thing, she plans to attach a flashing light to the doorbell for services because she often doesn’t hear doorbells and the sheer size of the space also requires a visual cue. She is also installing a wheelchair ramp, as well as differently textured tiles in different spaces to help visually impaired people distinguish between bathroom, demo kitchen and retail space based on the texture under the feet. Broussard even trains her pup Milo to be a service dog, in hopes that he can help her and her clients in the future.
The larger space will also allow Broussard to continue in-person workshops like “I knead love” thanks to the space’s demonstration kitchen. But perhaps the biggest change will be the introduction of retail space.
“For seven and a half years, I have been a satellite bakery,” explains Broussard. “My current kitchen is not a storefront you could just walk into; it’s a production kitchen, but it’s my own private kitchen. The reason this project is so important and so special is that it would be the first time in eight years that people could actually walk into the bakery and buy a pie. Broussard hopes to see the space evolve not just into a bakery, but also into a gathering space offering cooking classes and workshops.
It took a lot of hard work and tenacity for Broussard to get to where she is today: the author of an upcoming cookbook and owner of a new retail space has built a clientele faithful who has supported her for years, both on social networks and at markets and fairs. Her fanbase even includes former President Barack Obama, whom she met after baking pies for an Obama Foundation event. For anyone who wants to become a baker or who wants to make a difference in a job like Broussard’s, she cautions against the romance of work.
“I come home funky like I’m working out at the gym — it’s not like I come home smelling like sugar and buttercream,” Broussard laughs. “Literally when people say blood, sweat and tears: blood – burning me; sweat – lifting a 50 quart mixing bowl and trying to lift it off the table; tears – crying because you put your heart and soul into making a pie, then five people send you vile, disgusting words because they didn’t have enough caramel sauce on one of their pies .
But if you want to start your own business, or have a dream job you really want, then Broussard has two essential tips.
I was very clear about my request.
“One of the best tips I received was to fold a sheet of paper in half,” says Broussard. “On one side, write down everything you would like to accomplish in your life. On the other side, regardless of those goals, what do you really enjoy doing? ” she asks. “When you open up those two sides, draw a line between an accomplishment you want to do or have, and then something you enjoy doing. See if there’s some synchronicity between the two sides of the paper. She recommends add an element of social justice to your business only if it comes from “a genuine place”.
She also suggests a vision board, but be specific. “Print exactly where you want to go, where you want to live, what you want to do,” she says. His ambitions were tangible: “I printed out ‘Outstanding Baker, James Beard Awards’ and printed out a picture of the awards and didn’t win, but I was a finalist for the 2022 James Beard Award in the category Outstanding Baker. So I was very clear about my request.
Between her cookbook and her retail space, Broussard definitely has some exciting things to come. But she doesn’t want to get ahead of herself when it comes to planning for the future. “I will never talk about what I’m going to do, because what I want can change,” says Broussard. “Sometimes I still have to formulate what it looks like in my mind.”
Ultimately, it’s a specific kind of wealth she’s looking for. “What I want for myself in the future is the ability to decide how I spend my time without worrying about the consequences for my stability in life or my stature in life,” she says. Having money versus having time, for Broussard, is the difference between being rich and being rich: “Being rich is ‘I have time to spend'”. That, she says, is her goal as she moves into her next phase.