Everybody has a story, but some are more interesting than others. For instance...a baking business centered on the deliciousness of bananas, that all started when the proprietress slipped on a banana peel? Yup, believe it. I was able to catch up with Courtney, the talented and hilarious banana-whisperer behind the San Francisco-based boutique baking business Bananappeal, who dished on her sweet story:
Tell me, baby, what's your story? I have been a baker ever since I was a little girl growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. In high school I started my own catering company with my best friend. We worked weekends and employed our friends to help out for bigger events and actually had a pretty great following for 4 years. After high school, I attended Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration in Ithaca, NY. Although Cornell gave me a hospitality business background, I still wanted to go to pastry school and I enrolled in Napa Valley's Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Afterwards, I was homesick for my college friends who mostly all ended up in NYC working in restaurants. I moved to NYC and took a job working the pastry line at Danny Meyers' restaurant, Eleven Madison Park. Needless to say, I quickly got burnt out working the line there and found myself missing California, specifically Napa. I moved back to Napa in 2008 and took a position as concierge at a boutique luxury resort called Auberge Du Soleil. I actually got paid to drink wine and eat out so I could acquire knowledge to share with hotel guests. After a year and a half, I left Napa to take a job working for Food Network's Tyler Florence and moved to San Francisco, where I currently reside. It was not long before I got the itch to bake again and I decided to start my own company.
I've got to ask, even though everyone else probably does (sorry). Why bananas? Soon after moving to San Francisco, I was walking my shaggy Old English Sheepdog, Wrigley, through Golden Gate Park when I slipped on a banana peel....no really, when I decided to start my own baking business, I knew I had to differentiate myself from other competitors. I have always loved bananas and whenever I dined out, I always found myself saying "This dessert would be so much better if it had bananas in it!" Also, I feel as though bananas are very under-appreciated. After all, they are available year round, they are inexpensive, and for the most part, they are thought of as unglamorous fruit! I want to change that with Bananappeal. Bananas are delicious and they marry well with so many other flavors. Bananas deserve more credit. RESPECT THE BANANA!
Have you ever tried a banana flavor combination that didn't work out? Honestly, I have yet to encounter a flavor combination that hasn't worked well with bananas. If you think it will taste well with bananas, I find that it most often does.
What is your most popular product so far? There is something about the Banana Salted Caramel Frosted Cake that keeps people coming back for seconds, thirds, fourths...
What is the difference between banana bread and banana cake? I think that experts will provide varying answers to this one, but I can speak based on my recipe for my banana cake only. In my experience, banana bread is typically denser and has a firmer crumb while banana cake is more tender (usually because banana breads use flour that has a higher protein content). Also, there is the obvious difference in that banana bread is typically baked in a loaf pan while MY banana cakes are all baked in vintage inspired mason jars.
Do you ever listen to Bananarama while baking? Duh! "Cruel Summer" plays on repeat on my playlist while I bake dressed in my banana suit and I have dance parties in my kitchen. Sometimes my baking gets interrupted though because I have to take a call on my banana phone.
One of your taglines is "giving bananas the credit they deserve." Do you feel that bananas are under-appreciated? Hell yes! See above.
Tell me your thoughts on plantains, because they look like bananas. The only plantains I eat are fried (commonly called tostones) and come alongside mofongo. Spoiler Alert: plantains are NOT a substitute for bananas, especially in baking applications.
If a banana-genie appeared and was prepared to grant three wishes for your business, what would they be right now? 1. A rotating banana for the roof of my delivery van (a.k.a. the Banana Van). This was originally in my business plan, but I had to let go of the dream because it didn't fit in my tiny start-up budget! 2. A pair of elves with tiny, tiny hands to help me *hand tie* all of the twine around my jars. Yes, I spend a LOT of time tying twine. Say that 10 times fast. 3. For Oprah Winfrey to start her show up again, try my cakes, and shreek, "I love Bananappeeeeeeeaaaaaaallllll!!!!!!" and then watch as her guests squeal from excitement as Oprah employees distribute samples throughout the audience. Best. Day. Ever.