AY About You wants to share the stories of women here in Arkansas on Wednesdays in hopes to inspire and lift up others. Come back each week to read a new one.
Maya Angelou once said “I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same as ‘making a life.’”
Throughout time, women from different backgrounds have made a life for themselves with their tenacity and various talents.
Jan Lewandowski made her talent for baking a business when she opened the Blue Cake Company with her husband, Steve, in 2005.
If you live in Little Rock, then chances are you have most likely tasted at least one of her many delicious creations. From fresh baked pies to petit fours to cupcakes to custom cakes, Lewandowski bakes it all and offers more than 15 different flavors.
She was previously a pastry chef at the Capital Hotel. After it closed temporarily in 2005 for two years to be renovated, Lewandowski decided to make her own opportunities as a pastry chef and opened the Blue Cake Company. The company recently expanded after purchasing Honey Pies last year.
Lewandowski met the former owner of Honey Pies, Sharon Woodson, through a local “cake support group” which includes a small group of women who own bakeries in central Arkansas. She noted that Patti Stobaugh, owner of PattiCakes, Tracy McCauslin, owner of TracyCakes, and Kelli Marks, owner of Sweet Love, are all part of the group. Over the past five years, these women have been meeting once a month to support each other in business and offer advice.
“I always say yes to opportunities, even if I am scared,” she says. “I think if you are willing to work and push yourself, then the rewards will come.”
Lewandowksi is also the lead baking instructor at the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute. She began teaching there as an adjunct professor in 2006 to get out of her comfort zone as well as “to find potential employees who have the right baking skills.” Since then, Lewandowski has become a full-time instructor and her husband helps out with the day-to-day operations of the bakeries.
“I never thought I would be a teacher because I am so shy. I remember the first class I taught, I could barely finish a sentence,” says Lewandowksi. “Now, it has become my life. I absolutely love teaching my students and seeing their skills grow.”
According to Renee Smith, director of the Institute, Lewandowski “is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef and goes above and beyond her normal teaching responsibilities to make sure her students are getting the best education and experience possible.” Smith nominated Lewandowksi because “she is a phenomenal instructor and never says ‘no, I can’t do that.’”
As a Certified Executive Pastry Chef through the American Culinary Federation, Lewandowksi exemplifies skill, knowledge and professionalism in the culinary arts. The certification shows working knowledge of culinary nutrition, food safety and sanitation as well as supervisory management skills.
Individuals must have at least five years experience within the past 10 years as executive pastry chef or chef in charge of production of baked goods, pastry or confection. Furthermore, continuing education hours must be maintained.
Lewandowski helped develop the classes and achieve the American Culinary Federation accreditation for the baking and pastry arts program at the college. She was also named American Culinary Federation Central Pastry Chef of the Year on March 12, 2016.
Lewandowski has an associate degree in culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, formerly known as Scottsdale Culinary Institute, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The Blue Cake Company has two locations in Little Rock:
6800 Cantrell Rd. Little Rock, AR 72207
315 N. Bowman Rd. Little Rock, AR 72211
If you know a woman from Arkansas who inspires and empowers other women, please nominate her to possibly be featured here!