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Meet Chef Maria Kemp of Beyond Decadence

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chef Maria Kemp.

Hi Chef Kemp, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My career in pastry really isn’t much different from many other little girls with big dreams. My aspirations for a professional pastry career began as a child alongside my mother in a small kitchen in upstate New York. From a small stool pulled up close to the counter, I learned all the basics of creating edible expressions of love at my mother’s side.

When it was time to set off into the world of academia, I had dreams of pursuing a career as a pastry chef. However, at this time the Food Network hadn’t even been born yet.

This unknowingly clipped my wings, because I didn’t have anyone who looked like me to aspire to be or to try to go beyond their achievements. So when my father suggested pursuing another career path, I acquiesced and pursued a degree in Business Administration. The degree ended up leading me to a career as an IT Consultant for the next 20-25 years. The career was financially rewarding which gave me the stability I needed as a single parent, but something was always missing.

I wouldn’t find my way to a pastry-related career until my daughter was leaving the nest to forge out on her own. Then as a non-traditional student in my 40’s, The French Pastry School entered the scene and forever changed the trajectory of my life.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Smooth road?! Ha ha ha, can you draw me a picture of what that’s supposed to look like?! I think that only exists in movies. My journey has been pilfered with twists and turns that I couldn’t see coming in advance. If I would have known back then what I know now, I would have made a plethora of different choices.

About 8 months after graduating from The French Pastry School, I opened a brick-and-mortar bakery in Normal, IL. The bakery was open for nearly 2 years and just beginning to gain traction when my mother suffered a stroke so severe it confined her to a nursing home for the remaining 6 1/2 years of her life. I made the gut-wrenching decision to close the bakery in order to be intricately involved and advocate for her care.

As she cycled through 4 different nursing homes during that time, the decision I made to be by her side was definitely one I have never regretted. When I made the decision to close the bakery, I had already confirmed I was able to go back to the security of another IT Consultant position.

I knew I was where God wanted me to be, by my mother’s side. The knowledge gained in pastry school would not be lost. My faith and relationship with God gave me the strength to navigate some of the most difficult and painful seasons of my life. When she graduated to be with Jesus in 2016, I knew it was time for a major change.

That was when I made the decision to relocate myself and Beyond Decadence to North Carolina in the Spring of 2017.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Beyond Decadence, Inc?
The business has “morphed” (I hate the word “pivot”) since I first began in 2014. When I relocated the business to North Carolina in 2017, Beyond Decadence was Lake Norman’s first pop-up bakery specializing in American, French, and gluten-free desserts. At that time, I only knew ONE person. I worked relentlessly to build brand awareness and grow the business. Now 4 years later, we are an online artisan bakery specializing in handcrafted gourmet desserts, but with more of an emphasis on the private virtual & on-site baking experiences.

The “product” (dessert) side of the business is still vibrant, however, I am most proud of the morph we’ve been able to make to the private virtual and on-site baking experiences. We have worked tirelessly to build relationships with our clients to first earn their trust. Clients make the decision to purchase private baking experiences from us because we help solve a problem for them instead of merely trying to make a sale.

They know that we make sure all their concerns are addressed in order to ensure they have a phenomenal and memorable experience. We are responsive, treat them with kindness, respect, authenticity, and exceed their expectations time and time again. Now, we are known for more than just making a killer lemon bar or decadent dessert.

We now have a proven track record, written accolades, and a presence in baking experiences used for virtual team-building space as well.

How do you define success?
The way I define success has changed since I moved to Lake Norman and learned some notable approaches to entrepreneurship.

I learned — it’s not about who I know, but instead, it’s about who knows me. It’s about my name and business being whispered in rooms and circles I’m not even present in. Who knows me and my business well enough to share it with others in my absence. The money will come, but money is a by-product of a brand consistently doing everything else exceedingly-well.

What circles, opportunities, or experiences am I being invited into because of my accomplishments? Are the invitations getting bigger, better, or more prestigious? Is that the definition of success or merely evolving? I also think it has a lot to do with realizing earlier versions of things you offered in your business may no longer suit you. As you move toward success you continually evolve as you refine pursuing your passion.

I LOVE public speaking, teaching baking, and have been receiving more opportunities to do each. So if I had to quantify success, I would without hesitation select getting my own TV show on the Food Network or another major cooking channel.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Juan Zambrano Photography

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