FO & Tell with Francisca Ovalle
This week's post is a Q&A dedicated to my awesome friend and recent birthday girl, Chloe Mandoukos (formerly García). She and I went to Fordham University up in the Bronx and became close when we spent a semester abroad together. Barcelona, Spain took us on adventures in traveling, eating and speaking Spanish, and as it turns out, influenced Chloe's passion and art — baking. Below we chat about how she got started in the craft and how she’s turned her talent into a business.
Happy Birthday, Miss Chloe!
CM: I started baking in junior high, attempting to make homemade cookies with a toaster oven. That was before I understood ingredients, so I just threw flour and water with chocolate chips into a mixing bowl. Back then my peers played my guinea pigs; today they still remind me of all the times I made them eat my burnt, rock hard cookies.
It wasn’t until high school I began to take baking seriously; after a lot of trial and error, baking books and food programs, I finally began to master its science.
FO: Whom from the baking world do you admire?
CM: Gale Gand was the first pastry chef I ever watched on the Food Network, so I learned a lot of my techniques from her. I'm also inspired by Deb Perelman of 'Smitten Kitchen' and Jessica Mechant from 'How Sweet It Is.' They’re both innovative bloggers who passionately share their homemade secrets. I love taking their recipes and twisting them to create my own.
FO: What is your favorite thing to make? Any crowd pleasers?
CM: Chocolate Flourless Cake is my favorite thing to make; it’s rich and decadent. The best part is that it only requires six ingredients. As for crowd pleasers, I'd have to say it changes, but right now it's my Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting — it's moist, nutty and creamy.
FO: What do you typically wear when baking/cooking? Any snazzy aprons?
CM: A girly dress-like apron from Anthropologie. I received it as a gift two years ago from a high school friend. It's my favorite.
FO: Tell us a little bit about your baking blog and business Café au Chloé
CM: I started my blog Café au Chloé back in 2009. I have a passion for event planning and baking, so I wanted a public space to share my recipes, fashion ideas and wedding details. When researching flavors online one day I came across "Macaron Parlour," a small start-up in Lower Manhattan that creates delicious French macaroons — they actually inspired me to start my own business.
The company Café au Chloé launched in 2010, but really took off last year after I expanded my menu to include Cake Pops. Desserts are my weakness, but I like to keep my figure in check, so I came up with the idea of creating bite-sized treats. I consciously make all of my baked goods for those who like variety, but also just want a nibble. The desserts I offer range from Cake Pops, mini cookies, mini cupcakes, mini loafs, petite tarts, mini pies and individual cakes.
Travel and fashion are what inspire me, so I incorporated them into my baking. All of my dessert flavors are named after trips I’ve taken, trips I want to take, and fashion designers I like.
FO: What’s next on the menu for company Café au Chloé? Any specific business dreams?
CM: Right now I’m baking treats for family and friend bridal showers, birthdays and weddings. I hope to expand my business by opening up a store front that combines baking and event planning. My dream is to have a large enough space that I can bake, but also host bridal showers, baby showers, children's birthdays, baking classes and more. I love hosting events, celebrating happy occasions and feeding people yummy treats!
So, who wants a Cake Pop?