Having grown up in a traditional Taiwanese household, Joanne Chang ate a nutritious orange after every meal.
She knew nothing about American desserts until she was 7-years-old, when she visited her friend, Linda’s, house for dinner: meatloaf, potatoes, and peas – no rice or fruit. After Linda’s mother served chocolate cake for dessert, Chang became obsessed with pastry.
Now Chang’s greatest joy is feeding people – and she does it quite well at her celebrated Flour bakeries throughout Boston and at Myers + Chang Restaurant in the South End, among other eateries.
The award-winning baker, chef, and restaurant owner shared her journey in the culinary industry (and her recipe for chocolate chunk cookies) with more than 100 listeners during the Jan. 8 Beacon Hill Women’s Forum at the Hampshire House.
“I love making sticky buns and dumplings, but the real thrill I have is giving back to my team and the communities who have welcomed us,” said Chang.
Chang graduated with honors from Harvard College with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Economics. She worked as a management consultant in Boston for two years; but her passion for cooking perpetually inspired her to invite the whole company to her home for dinner parties.
Chang fantasized about owning her own bakery, that is, if she ever won the lottery.
“I gave up my pumps and suits for clogs and a chef’s knife,” Chang affirmatively said. “I had incredible experiences cooking in Boston and New York.”
She began with her own catering business and as a cook at Boston’s renowned Biba restaurant. In September 2000, Chang founded Flour Bakery on Washington Street in the South End; and two months ago, opened her eighth location in The Innovation and Design Building in the Seaport District.
Chang explained the challenges she experienced in being overworked, and having the desire to move forward in her ventures. Once she started sharing her vision of Flour with staff, which included having cookie tastings, and the importance of being grateful and hospitable, Flour was able to take the next step as a company.
“I found this invaluable in trying to make sure the teams understand what we hope every guest experiences,” said Chang.
She and business partner and now-husband, Christopher, have developed a team and strong community at Flour and Myers + Chang, a Chinese restaurant the pair opened in the South End in 2007.
“Myers + Chang is our kid in a way. We view all our employees as our kids,” described Chang of her staff, which consists of predominantly 19-24-year-olds. “We feel honored and responsible for making them into better adults, equipped to deal with the world around us.”
Visit Flour Bakery’s fourth branch on Clarendon Street in the Back Bay, and read one of Joanne Chang’s four cookbooks: “Flour, Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café”; “Flour, Too, Indispensable Recipes for the Chef’s Most Loved Sweets and Savories”; “Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Dessert using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar”; and “Myers + Chang at Home: Recipes from the Beloved Boston Eatery.” Chang is currently working on her fifth book, “Pastry Love.”