|Local artist creates work on canvas and plates|
In the culinary world, a common adage describes food as equal to art. In Baton Rouge, Grace Emden lives that motto every day. Part artist, part chef and part entrepreneur, Emden provides a refreshing take on what is becoming the new definition of Baton Rouge culture. Her brushstroke on a canvas and her carefully crafted pastries stimulate both the eyes and palate. “As an artist, I naturally fell in love with food,” Emden said one morning at Garden District Coffee.
Emden began her life in the culinary world as a hostess at the now-closed Blue Fish Grill. The job opened her eyes to the restaurant world, and she fell in love with the atmosphere, in particular the presentation of food on a plate. She spent the next few years serving, bartending and working in kitchens while also exploring her other passions in sculpting and painting.
Emden describes her own art as weird. She likes to use abstract elements, unique textures and obscure media to add character to her works. She enjoys doing live paintings, has pieces showing at Gallery Bohemia, participates in the monthly Stabbed in the Art shows and adds some flair to the walls of Chelsea's Café.
In 2008, while watching the television show Ace of Cakes, Emden found inspiration in the combination of food, sculpture and art. Seeing an opportunity to combine her different passions, Emden put out the word that she could make cakes for special occasions. Before she knew it, she had 19 orders in one week for wedding showers and birthday parties. Emden abandoned her day job, and Cakes of Grace was born.
After successfully running Cakes of Grace for two years, Emden began getting offers from companies in need of pastry chefs. She took several part-time jobs creating sweets for local catering companies and making cupcakes for Buzz Café. Those gigs made her want to get back into the restaurant world and refresh her own culinary creativity. She landed the pastry chef job at Chelsea's Café and was allowed full creative control with the desserts. Emden is a big fan of Chelsea's, where everything is homemade and the desserts needed equal attention. While there are almost always cheesecakes and bread puddings on the menu, Emden gets to play with options from pink lemonade to peanut butter and chocolate cakes.
To add even more excitement to her world, Emden began working with Curbside food truck owner Nick Hufft in January 2012. As a foodie, talking to other foodies provided even more inspiration for Emden to be an artist in the kitchen. Hufft and Ignatius Reilly food truck owner Marcus Day sold Emden on the idea of mobile gourmet food. Serving customers high-quality food with the freshest ingredients in a recycled paper box for $10 instead of a fancy plate for $25 fits right in with the artist's mentality.
Emden prepared prop food for a Thanksgiving dinner scene in the second Twilight film. She says she would love to expand her artistic endeavors through art direction and set construction in Louisiana's thriving film industry. Wherever she may be cooking, baking or creating, look for Emden to continue making her name known in Baton Rouge. Whether she tantalizes your eyes through her art or your mouth through her food, you'll be in for a sweet treat.
Jay D. Ducote is the author of the food and beverage blog Bite and Booze, host of the Bite and Booze Radio Show and co-host of Raise a Glass. You can find him online at biteandbooze.com.
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