The people of Boston and Cambridge have known it for years, the woman behind Flour Bakery + Cafe is the best baker on the planet. Now, the rest of America knows it, too, as Flour's founder, Joanne Chang (@jbchang), was just given the James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker.
Chang joined Jim on Wednesday night to discuss the prestigious award, but said that receiving it doesn't change anything for her. "I got back yesterday and immediately people have been really lovely," she said. "But I went straight to work, and had a meeting and another meeting and ate pastries."
Jim remarked that Chang has a "trademark Chang smile," however when she's hard at work she is "scary focused." Chang said she has learned that she can be intimidating. "Unless I'm truly in the kitchen working with my head down, I have to be careful not to get too serious looking," she said.
Chang graduated from Harvard with a math degree before beginning her career in baking. She said that her parents were apprehensive about her leaving her stable and lucrative job to open Flour. Her parents call her "hooley hutu," she said, meaning "a little flighty, head in the clouds." Chang said she is extremely focused while at work but "hooley hutu... when it comes to everything else."
Chang currently employs 280 people at Flour bakery, and 45 people at her restaurant, Myers + Chang. She described the transition from baking full-time to managing people. "I'm no longer baking," she said, "I used to take ingredients and make the pastries, and now I'm taking people and trying to make them into better people, and it's fun."
Chang wasn't the only James Beard Award winner in Boston. The WGBH Shows, 'Lidia Celebrates America' and 'I'll Have What Phil's Having' both earned media awards for Top Special and Top Television Show On Location.