It might not be the first thing you notice when you walk into Ellie’s. As a small French Bakery tucked into downtown Providence, our wall space is limited, and the bulk of that space is occupied by a small bar for seating on one side, a wall-to-wall window in the front, a large shelf with freshly baked bread and our menu board on the other side, and then the kitchen is to the rear. Despite the limitations on space, the bakery is filled with art.
Food as art is hardly a new concept, and we believe our bakers produce some beautiful and tasty treats. We are lucky to have one person on our baking team who is especially talented both in food arts, and in visual arts. Her handiwork is on display throughout the bakery, and we feel like it is beyond time for us to introduce her to you.
Art and the French Bakery
What is your job at Ellie’s, and how long have you worked here?
Hi! My name is Allie. I started out as a barista at Ellie’s almost two years ago. Some time between then and now, I mastered the espresso machine, peddled around Millie (the macaron ice cream sandwich cart), became Ellie’s Instagram photographer, became Ellie’s personal chalkboard menu artist, triumphantly wiggled my way into a full time baker position, became a teacher for the baking classes held each month, and finally morphed into the position entitled “Lead Macaroner/Cake Decorator.”
You’ve done a lot! What do you like most about working here?
Being able to target my creative energies into beautiful edible creations, and no one lets ego get in the way of creativity. I am always pushed forward. Ellie’s is *quite* the learning environment.
Do you have a favorite tool that is essential to your job?
A bowl scraper, a calculator, an everlasting supply of pastry bags.
You did not go to culinary school, yet you are obviously a skilled baker. Where did you learn to bake?
I learned how to bake as a really young kid, standing next to my mom and sister with big eyes and spatula in hand. Growing up, every weekend my sister and I would host episodes of The Cooking Show, our awesome made-up TV show that we took very seriously and explained things step-by-step to our invisible audience, as if we were miniature Julia Childs. We even had a theme song. Growing up, I’d always spend time after school baking and decorating elaborate custom birthday cakes for my friends or baking a braided loaf of bread on a whim as a Saturday activity. When things got a little more serious, (AKA: I grew up), I eagerly researched, studied, and trial-and-errored my way into the industry.
You went to college for art. How do you find that helpful in your work as a baker?
I look at every pastry, every cake, every macaron I make and see it as art and there is no other way I can see it. I can’t help it. And I believe that is something that sets me apart. I have an inner yearning to make everything beautiful, to be viewed as a statement, to be seen as something more than just the obvious. I am not sure if my structured background in oil painting and illustration is to credit for my creative energies, as much as my own intrinsic nature. I see things a little bit differently, and that is something that cannot be taught.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love to explore. I like to kayak, go camping, be at the shore, read, garden, drink tea, go biking, nap. I guess you could call me an adventurous introvert.
Name three of your favorite artists.
Egon Schiele, Paula Rego, Toulouse Lautrec.
How about a favorite author?
Roald Dahl– all of his children’s books.
What is your favorite drink?
Fave drink of the moment: matcha tea lattes.
My favorite candy is Cow Tales.
What is a fun fact about you that most of your co-workers might not know?
I’ve written and illustrated several children’s books, in most cases, the stories revolve around food. For example, the one righteous cupcake that escaped from the bakery because he didn’t want to end up like the rest of the batch: doomed as dessert.
Where can we see your art outside of Ellie’s?
When I was 17, I sold a larger-than-life (8 foot by 4 foot) self portrait of mine to the Scholastics headquarters in NYC. It was an acrylic and chalk pastel painting of me (a vegetarian at the time) cooking a steak. They said they wanted to hang it in their cafeteria.
Stop into Ellie’s Monday through Saturday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. to see, and better yet, to taste the art.