International Women’s Day w/ the team at Milo & Olive

To celebrate our first ever blog post, we thought it only appropriate to have it coincide with International Women's Day.  White Bark Workwear has always been supported and guided by the wonderful women connected to our brand. From my mother giving me space to sew and work on our very first aprons in her garage, to the wonderful women who have ordered aprons for themselves and their staffs, shared photos on social media, or just sent us a DM saying how much they love wearing our products. Whether they are clients, friends, clients turned friends or family members, we think it important to celebrate this year in a more personal way.  

As such, we wanted to zoom-in on a team of dedicated White Bark Workwear clients and friends. A few weeks ago we took an 11 mile trip across town from our Work/Shop in the Harvard Heights neighborhood to visit the talented and hard-working all female baking team (Plus Ramon, their amazing driver and prep) at Milo + Olive in Santa Monica, California. Without (hopefully) interrupting their daily baking flow we took some photos of them seamlessly moving from one dough to the next, from bench to mixer to oven - all within the 60 or so minutes that we were there. As with every baking team we've ever visited, they move quickly, intentionally and with a serious determination to mark off every pastry/bread item on their list.  This team makes ALL of the bread and pastries for their restaurant, and most of the baked goods (bread, pastry, and viennoiserie) for the rest of the Rustic Canyon Family Restaurant Group. That being said, they made it clear that they manage to get in a dance move or two if the right song comes along :) ...all while starting work at 4am and surely having drank more coffee than before most of the city has even opened its eyes. 

(from left to right: Rebecca Tosdevin, Kelsey Brito, Josie Cordova, Krista Hernandez)

After the photo shoot we emailed over a short Q&A to which the baking team so thoughtfully replied. We've  shared some of their answers below!

Is baking a tradition in your family or did you come to it on your own?

Kelsey: My grandma Leonor loves to bake - there’s this amazing picture of my dads family in Portugal shot on B&W film (below, and clearly on self timer) proudly posed in their kitchen behind a table of baked goods my grandma prepared. My entire family loves to cook and entertain, my other grandma, Patti, passed away last January but she was unequivocally the “hostess with the mostest”. Though nobody other than me has pursued it professionally, we’ve always been a family who ate dinner together every night and any event/celebration was centered around a meal together and I think that has always stuck with me - it’s how we take care of the ones we love. 

Josie: Baking was never a tradition but working with your hands always was. Whether it be cooking, woodwork, ceramics, or painting. 

Krista: My exposure to cooking and baking was most heavily influenced by my maternal grandmother. From a young age I was helping her in the kitchen. I’d sit on the counter and she would have me taste a sauce she was making and ask me what I thought of it, make cookie dough or mashed potatoes, pick out a recipe to try, tell me to stop opening the fridge- the cheesecake wasn’t set yet. She encouraged and allowed me to be involved in all the stages and processes of cooking. And it just stuck with me. 

Rebecca: My Mum is a brilliant cook, she is the reason I gravitated to the kitchen! My earliest memories are of making pancakes with her, standing on a stool, using two heavy cast iron frying pans (called the pancake pans) that I still use today.  

 How has the industry changed since you first started? For the better or for the worst?

Kelsey: I think it’s gotten more inclusive, somewhat more diverse & we’re moving in a positive direction, though there is still a long way to go. When I started at my first line cook job the men I worked with were twice my age, condescending, and made me feel like a complete idiot ALL the time just for asking questions and trying to learn. I can’t tell you how many times I cried in the walk in, lol. I think something that’s become apparent over the last few years is that being a “critically acclaimed” chef isn’t enough anymore - you can’t ride that wave forever while you burn bridges, treat people like shit, condone or participate in sexism/racism/sexual harassment in your restaurants, etc. This is a new era and nobody is going to put up with that. 

Josie: The food service industry has always had the “customer comes first” motto.  However, as far as creative industries go- this little bakery of kick ass women has been a breath of fresh air. 

 Krista: I would say it’s changing for the better. In general the acknowledgment that change is needed and the effort to make the workplace a more respectful place for everyone, promoting and supporting a healthy work-life balance. 

Rebecca: - I think for the better, but there’s still so much that needs to be done. 

  • We still need a better livable wages across the board, living in California is crazy expensive, and the minimum wage should reflect that! 
  • Women are still a minority in the food industry, but I’ve been lucky enough to work mostly with female chefs, at women owned restaurants. Women supporting women!
  • The idea of a “chef” is changing for the better. Bringing your team that holds you up, into that light. A chef can’t do it alone, and the prep cooks, bakers, dishwashers, farmers and line cooks must be given credit for their work and recipes.
  • Waste in kitchens can be horrendous! During this year of always wearing gloves and individual packaging for everything I’m sure waste has gone through then roof! 
  • In the past few years I have personally been working to a better work life balance, I still struggle.
  • The sense of food community has really grown, and that’s so beautiful. I feel so supported!

What’s the best part about waking up before the rest of the city?

Kelsey: The mornings when you can zip out of the bakery for 3 minutes to sit on a milk crate and watch the sunrise with a coffee & warm croissant straight from the oven. Pure bliss. Empty streets and being able to hear the crickets & birds right as the sun starts to creep up, that’s my favorite part of the morning. 

Josie: I love being up before the city wakes up and prepping myself mentally in my car by blasting some metal. 

Krista: I enjoy the stillness. Most people are still asleep and it’s like you get a sneak peak of the day before everyone gets moving. Also, no traffic is pretty great. 

Rebecca: No traffic! 

What’s the worst part?

Kelsey: NEVER ENOUGH SLEEP (or coffee).

Josie: The worst part is all the hormonal syncing 😂

Krista: Missing the sunrise. Braving the cold- it’s just you and the raccoons that early. 

Rebecca:  Hmmm. Well mostly the lack of sleep. You’re a kind of tired you that only your fellow bakers understand. Brain mush tired.

Do you have any kitchen superstitions in general or with regard to a particular pastry?

Kelsey: No superstitions that I can think of.. if I knock over salt I’ll throw a little over my shoulder. I hold my breath when I go through tunnels… though come to think of it, not sure why. Ha!

Krista: Good luck when you get an egg with a double yolk. 

Rebecca: I love the the bakers dozen superstition,  which is 13...12 for you, one for the devil! 

What’s the best part of working with this crew?

Kelsey: Everyone I work with is so f*&king cool and just genuinely good intentioned human beings. Nobody takes themselves too seriously and we laugh a little too loud and have fun together, try to learn a few things along the way. 

Josie: We have two genuinely loving women who care about everyone’s well being. 

Krista: Everyone is welcoming and supportive from the get go. If one station’s day is heavier than another’s, everyone notices and instinctively offer help so one person isn’t carrying all the weight. All around the crew is pretty goofy and silly with each other. Being able to have a mini dance party while egg washing croissants at 5 am adds a whole other level of enjoyment to your day. 

Rebecca: When a really good song comes on, and we all start dancing at the same time. 

What has you excited about the what you have been making at M+O? 

Kelsey: We’ve recently really hit our stride with our croissants and bread and I’m definitely stoked on that because it has been suuuuuch a journey. I’ve also started putting together little “holiday markets” on the back patio pretty much once a month and that has been a really good creative outlet and opportunity to lean into every single holiday a little harder than we usually would. It’s been fun to come up with new items for that and also get to have back some of the sense of community we’ve been missing by interacting with guests and inviting some friends who run their own businesses to set up shop with us for a weekend.

Josie: I’m always excited to see what’s being made in our little bakery. I love all the experimentation, the constant adjustments in bread hydration, that we have try and utilize our food waste, and being able to see how each individuals creativity and strengths come to light. 

Krista: Getting more familiar with bread! Observing everyone’s touch- the slightly different way of doing the same thing. Getting familiar with the feel, temperature,  and the visual cues of mixing dough, scoring, baking. All of it. I love that seasonality, availability, and supporting local are the beat of our drum. 

Rebecca: Strawberry rhubarb pies! Spring is here again, and I can’t wait for all the goodies!