While Downtown missed the boat on covering National Fudge Day, which happened on Jun. 16, there are fortunately plenty of fudge-related companies making great things happen all year long. One of them is the lower Manhattan-based Mini Melanie, as operating out of 115 Allen Street. Beyond its distinction of making top-notch sweets, Mini Melanie further distinguishes itself from other bakeries in not only having holiday-themed specials — one such product is its timely 4th Of July-themed Funfetti Truffles — but also shipping its products. The company was founded by Melanie Moss, who had worked in the kitchens of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Babbo, in the Fall of 2014.
Melanie Moss, both Mini Melanie’s owner and namesake, spoke to Downtown about what it’s like running a Michelin Guide-recommended bakery and what inspired her to become a pastry chef in the first place. My personal highlight within our Q&A was hearing which custom cake she and team recently put together. Mini Melanie can be visited online at www.minimelanie.com and followed on Twitter via @MiniMelanieNYC. Kitchen Manager Alex Hawkins — a former Momofuku Milk Bar Pastry Cook — is on Instagram with recipes of her own as @ahawkz.
At what point in your career did you come up with the idea to be your own boss? Was it the result of people asking you to bake something for them while you were still employed?
Melanie Moss: While working in restaurants. I gathered so many ideas that I wanted to recipe test, and I grew so inspired by managing a pastry team, that I wanted to combine my creativity and management style by starting off on my own.
How did you wind up being a pastry chef? Were you ever a chef that specialized in other foods?
MM: I started baking when I was six with my grandmother who was from Vienna. The hobby grew and grew, and led me to do summer jobs on farms, employment at a private cooking school in Paris, and ultimately to quit my job in book publishing and go to culinary school. I studied culinary arts, not pastry, while at the Institute Of Culinary Education. I wasn’t sure if pastry would be my path, but once I started working at Babbo for my cooking school internship, it became clear that that’s where my home was. I tried the garde manger and grill stations, and they weren’t for me!
Where did the idea for your July 4th-themed Funfetti Truffles come from?
MM: Thinking of exactly what might keep the party going at barbecues!
When I first tasted the Funfetti Truffles, I was reminded of red velvet cake. Do you have a way of describing that dessert?
MM: You’ve got it right! The white chocolate shell around the red velvet filling is a fun place on the cream cheese frosting color contrast you see with red velvet cake.
Do you have plans for other holiday-themed desserts?
MM: We’re always planning for more themed specials. Such as our summertime S’mores Truffle. It’s made with homemade graham crackers and homemade vanilla marshmallows.
How is it able that your company is able to ship its desserts?
MM: After much trials and testings, we can ship our chocolates nationwide. Our cakes are available in New York City only at the moment, but one day it would be great to ship our party-sized cakes and mini cakes.
Aside from the Mini Melanie kitchen, what is your dessert of choice?
MM: Ice cream!
What has been the most challenging cake that you’ve had to prepare for a special occasion?
MM: I love a good challenge. I created a very elaborate Shark Tank-themed cake recently.
What is the biggest challenge of your job? Is it coming up with ideas? The actual baking?
MM: Surprisingly, no. It’s time-management and other aspects of the business side of Mini Melanie. We’re constantly fine-tuning our brand message, website user experience, production efficiency, customer service, and how we take care of our employees and kitchen interns.
Do you have a top goal for Mini Melanie? Is the goal to make retail-sold products? To have retail locations? None of the above?
MM: We’re not planning on retail down the line. We’d like to do what we do now on a larger scale. That is, create the ultimate gifts, dessert tables, event favors for website sale and for catering but on a larger scale.
Who are the other people on your team omaking things happen?
MM: Currently, we have two other full-time employees: Alex Hawkins, Kitchen Manager, and Hunter Siegrist, Operations and Marketing Assistant. Together we keep the business and kitchen sides operating smoothly throughout our rapid changes and growth.
When you’re not busy in the kitchen or with your business, how do you like to spend your free time?
MM: With my family. We’re all in New York City, and it’s great to all get together to cook and taste test Mini Melanie products. My most honest and valued tasters!
Finally, Melanie, any last words for the kids?
MM: Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t tried us, we can’t wait to bake for you!