There are certain things the people of Boston will wait for: a World Series win, a table in the North End, and dessert from Flour Bakery. Drive past any one of its four locations in the city, and chances are you'll see a long line of foodies queueing up to order a better-than-Mom's chocolate chip cookie or the sticky bun that inspired a nationally televised competition.
My end goal is that with every bite, you can't help but reach for another.
After one bite, it's easy to understand what the fuss is all about. Under the guidance of James Beard-award winning chef/owner Joanne Chang, Flour offers fresh, modern twists on classic sweets and savories. Whether it's the Chunky Lola cookie (a heavenly mix of oats, chocolate, coconut, and toasted pecans) or the roasted chicken sandwich with jicama and mashed avocado, the menu has an offering for almost any palate. This is because Chang isn't just passionate about food, she's also willing to tweak a recipe—any recipe—until it's absolutely perfect. "You can usually tell because it's devoured after the test!" she says
Chang's simple-is-best approach to baking is at the core of everything that comes out of her kitchen. She eschews trendy, over-the-top desserts in favor of items that are more than the sum of their parts. "I want to make the flakiest, butteriest croissant, the chocolatiest cookie, the tartest lemon curd, the creamiest creme brulee. I try to make the flavors and textures shine and balance," she says. "My end goal is that with every bite, you can't help but reach for another." Much to the delight of health-conscious patrons, Chang has also discovered ways to make her addictive desserts slightly less decadent. When possible, she cuts down on white flour and uses natural sweeteners, like fresh fruit and honey, instead of sugar.
That level of precision and attention to detail isn't a stretch for Chang, who graduated from Harvard with honors with a degree in applied mathematics and economics. After a couple of years as a management consultant, she decided to trade the conference room for the kitchen. She honed her skills in renowned kitchens in Boston and New York and opened her first location of Flour in 2000. The bakery quickly earned a cult following and eventually launched an empire. In addition to Flour, Chang is the chef/owner of Myers + Chang, an in-demand Asian restaurant in Boston's South End, and the author of three cookbooks.
Like many successful entrepreneurs, Chang's workday is a study in balance. During the day, she's conducting tastings, tweaking recipes, and holding staff meetings in at least two of her bakeries. At night, she's at the restaurant, sampling dishes, working with cooks, and chatting with guests. Somewhere in her busy schedule she finds a way to spend time with her restauranteur husband, Christopher Myers, or goes for a run. (Chang has competed in every Boston Marathon between 1991 and 2006.) "I love all of the activity," she explains.
The busy chef also carves out time for No Kid Hungry, an organization devoted to ending childhood hunger in America. "I'm still shocked after all these years that there are kids who wake up not knowing when they are going to eat next," she says. "How can we think we can educate the next generation when they go to school on an empty stomach? That we have this issue in America is ludicrous." In April, she joined several other top chefs from around the country at New York's Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry, an event in a culinary series that takes place in over twenty U.S. cities, presented by Citi to raise money for No Kid Hungry. (Chang served a passion fruit fool with airy meringue that was, unsurprisingly, a big hit—she was plating dishes at a steady pace all night.)
Despite her mile-long to-do list, Chang is known as a precise but nurturing boss who keeps her cool in the busiest of kitchens, a Zen-like attitude she attributes to her devoted staff. "When I think about how hard everyone is working every day at the bakeries and restaurant, it helps center me and give me perspective," she says. "The passion and joy that the teams have for what they do is inspiring. Certainly I get frustrated and overwhelmed and crazed like everyone else, but I know how important it is for me to keep things together in order to move forward. So it's a big part of who I am—always trying to stay focused on what's right around me."
Join Joanne Chang in the fight to end childhood hunger by purchasing tickets to a Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry event near you. Citi cardmembers enjoy 10% off the ticket price and exclusive event benefits, including expedited check-in and entry, special gifts and giveaways, and access to the special Citi Lounge (at select events).