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Most Influential, Food & Drink: Emily Kim and Heather Hodge

Using their dessert-making skills for the greater social good

By Rachel Gallaher February 20, 2023

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This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Emily Kim and Heather Hodge are among Seattle’s 25 most influential people reshaping our region. #mostinfluential  

When Emily Kim and Heather Hodge, founders of the Pastry Project, went out for drinks one evening in 2019, starting a business together was the last thing on their minds. The two women, who both worked for Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream at the time — Kim was in the marketing and community relations department and Hodge was the chef and delivery manager — were meeting to discuss some workplace challenges. 

“We were sitting there, talking about life, our goals and what’s important to us,” Hodge recalls. “And Emily just turns to me and says, ‘We should start a business together.”’ 

“I just thought she was so smart and driven and accomplished,” Kim says. “And a lot of our values overlapped.”

Working in the food industry and specifically in a sector that focused on desserts, Kim and Hodge realized there were nonprofits that offered training in culinary or barista skills, but none for pastry. Both women saw an opportunity to create a business — the Pastry Project is a for-profit social enterprise rather than a traditional nonprofit — that sat at the intersection of two shared passions: pastry and social justice.

They saw the Pastry Project as a platform to provide free bakery and pastry training to individuals with barriers to opportunity in the pastry industry.

 

Clockwise, from upper left: Hana Johannes, part of the first cohort, cuts the lemon bars she just made. Tia Padilla, left, and Ari Laureano, also in the first cohort, make cheesecake bars. Claudia Garcia, second cohort, making a cranberry tart with toasted meringue. Johannes making lemon bars. Photography by Kae-Lin Wang

In November 2019, armed with the first grant from the Alliance for Pioneer Square and donated kitchen space at London Plane, Kim and Hodge welcomed their first cohort of students. The Pastry Project runs two four-student, 14-week sessions a year. In addition to learning how to bake treats, including cookies, cakes and croissants, individuals in the program are taught kitchen, food safety and communication skills that set them up for entry-level jobs at bakeries and restaurants around the city. Kim and Hodge are so invested in their students’ achievement that they give out childcare and transit stipends to those who need them. 

The Pastry Project, which now has its own space in Pioneer Square, prides itself on supporting progressive causes, promoting community engagement and encouraging anyone who is interested in learning more about baking. It offers classes and workshops, a community lending library — anyone can check out stand mixers, cookbooks and baking tools for free — baking subscription boxes and residencies for small businesses. 

Last September, it introduced frozen take-and-bake cookie dough into local grocery stores. Even with that, Kim and Hodge still look to their student program as the heart of what they do.

“We’re so proud of that program,” Hodge says. “We want it to be a life-changing experience for each individual and a real catalyst for their future, even if it isn’t in the pastry industry.”

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