Hear the inspiring story of Crumble and Whisk Chef/Owner Charles Farrier as he recounts his journey from culinary arts school to the corporate world and back into the culinary arts and into entrepreneurship. His story is one of strength, perseverance, and creativity. His story is a reminder to continue pushing our creativity, challenging ourselves, and taking risks towards our dreams.
Where did your love from baking come from and how to did you find yourself in the food industry?
So I actually kind of taught myself. It was really important for me to be very well rounded. I went into culinary school where I was actually able to learn the basics and get a foundation. I worked in a lot of restaurant spaces that I came to know and love. From there, I found that you’re able to branch off a bit and really expand into your own style. Additionally, in the back of my own mind, I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur.
One day when I was working in the corporate world, our company was hosting a potluck and someone suggested I should bring a dessert. I was like...I don't know what I’m going to bring in, but I’ll look in a couple of books and make a cheesecake. I made a basic cheesecake and everyone loved it.
Everyone kept asking me to bring in another cheesecake. I decided that I would bring in another cheesecake, but I would do it my way - add in my own creativity. I created my own flavor - the vanilla bean flavor. One of my colleagues challenged me to a cheesecake bake off, and I was like… nah, you don’t want to do that. And from there, it just kind kind of grew.
You launched Crumble and Whisk in 2013, what motivated you to take that leap and how has that vision lived up to your imagination?
While I was still working in the corporate space, the cheesecakes got a lot of widespread attention. I was introduced to an organization called La Cocina and in the process of being introduced to them, I joined the program and they showed me the ropes and the foundation of starting and growing a business. Unfortunately, at this same time I was let go from my corporate role because my small business was getting so big. Being let go sort of actually forced me into fight or flight mode with the new business. So I started at home, making these little cheesecakes. I would go around to local barber shops - actually in Oakland on MacArther. That’s how I was able to save up the money for the licensing, and the kitchen time, and the permits. That was actually the backbone of how I started. Since then, the business has grown tremendously! The vision is still there. I do want to make Crumble and Whisk a global business. I want to have little Crumble and Whisk Patisserie shops all through the bay area and beyond. It’s a matter of baby steps and getting things done gradually.
In reading your story, we see that you have had quite the journey. You went to culinary school, joined SF’s La Cocina incubator, and then began selling your cheesecakes at the SF Ferry Building’s Farmer’s market. What would you say to up-and-coming culinary artists who have a dream to launch their own business.
Start small. Start with a small menu with friends and family and test it out so you can get the perfect blend and perfect recipes. It’s okay to test at home. That is where you can work some of the kinks out while also testing your market. Nothing I do is new. There are so many companies that exist that do something similar to what I do, however you have to think about what makes your product different. What brings people to you? And that is really where you will stand out. You have to make it unique, something with a twist to it.
Additionally, what I would tell people is that there is no time limit. There’s no time frame. Everyone wants to get things done fast and in a hurry. If you don’t understand the numbers, or your formula, if you’re not making money, then what you’re doing is a hobby. The money will come, but you need to lay the groundwork.
With Covid setting in in 2020, what has been your biggest learnings about yourself, about your business, about the community?
I had to really change and pivot the structure of the business. We lost a lot of our catering, events, weddings, and all things that were already calendared out. I had to figure out what I was going to do, and I am still actually figuring that out. One thing I used to do as well within the community is guest speak at career days for high schools. It’s really important for me to speak to Black men and boys about different career choices. For Black men in general, sometimes we get the short end of the stick in terms of how we are perceived. There is often a stereotype around what we can and can’t do career-wise. I try to encourage young men to understand that they don’t have to be boxed in or limited.
There is often a stereotype around what we can and can’t do career-wise. I try to encourage young men to understand that they don’t have to be boxed in or limited. I look forward to getting back into that when the country opens back up.
Is there anything you'd like to say to future customers? How can folks get involved?
Come out and support our business. Don’t just support it during “Black advertising” moments, like not just during Black history month or the Black Lives Matter movement. Support all year around. We need support just like our counterparts, because at the end of the day, we’re trying to survive just like anyone else and we’re trying to expand our business and our network. We can’t do that without the support of everyone. Right now, we really need the support. We’re not getting the same traffic like we used to.
Folks can also follow us on social media, visit the website, see what we have to offer. We are also at a few pop ups throughout the bay area. We're at the SF - Farmers Market on Saturdays and in Walnut Creek or Marin on Sundays. You can also order from us on DoorDash.
If I'm a new customer, what do you recommend I start with to get a good feel for your brand and who you are as a company?
I would definitely say try our sampler. It provides a variety of options.
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Photography by Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group