Briana's Dinner Party Series
Feasting, Celebrating & Catching Up with Briana RiddockThursday, June 03, 2021
It's been a few years since Thursday Food last saw chef Briana Riddock. It was, in fact, at a dinner party at her Spaces creative director cousin Janelle Pantry-Coke's home, over the 2018 US Thanksgiving weekend. Wow, how time flies! Since then, Riddock has been growing her business and engaging in fantastic collaborations. She, too, has been winning over the stomachs of Atlanta's creative set and learning just how strong a businesswoman she is.
In addition to being soughtafter by some of the city's best chefs, seats at Riddock's dinner party series — Table of Influence — were highly coveted. Most stagings would sell out soon after tickets were released.
Still, like the rest of us, the pandemic stuck a fork in Riddock's plans. But as a talented young woman who is full of ideas (Riddock has an MA in Food Studies from NYU and is an expert recipe developer who has worked with some of the best food publications in the biz), the pandemic gave her a chance to grow. She turned her talents into making celebration cakes, especially for people with dietary restrictions, which increased her following and customer base immensely.
Riddock chatted with Thursday Food from Atlanta about what she's been up to, and how the pandemic has shaped her business practices, and her plans for the future.
Thursday Food (TF): Briana, how are you?
Briana Riddock (BR): I am good! It blows my mind to think about how busy I am. I've been working on time management to juggle all the projects and attention that have recently come my way.
In July 2020, I was named one of three top rising black chefs in Atlanta by Atlanta magazine. It was a huge honour to have the title and recognition, especially from other chefs who have been in the industry for much longer than I have. Getting recognised by other chefs means so much because it takes hard work to become a chef.
TF: What plans did you have for 2020 that got interrupted, delayed, or cancelled because of the pandemic?
BR: I was planning to continue my dinner party series — Table of Influence — in 2020. However, in March 2020, everything started to shut down, and the pandemic's reality began to set in. I was also working at an Afro- Caribbean restaurant called Rock Steady as their pastry chef, and the restaurant closed temporarily. (Editor's note: Rock Steady reopened in October 2020, and Riddock is back in her role as pastry chef). I didn't have that many private bookings at the time, so that part of my business did not get affected. If anything, it skyrocketed. Honestly, I was happy for the rest at the beginning of the pandemic. I was running myself on empty, and I was constantly tired. Everything was moving so fast to where I did not have time to think before the pandemic. There were weeks when I was working every day for weeks on end, constantly on my feet for over 10 hours each day. It took a significant toll on my body. I constantly complained about my feet hurting, and I was really drained overall. I have way more grey hairs in my head than ever before.
TF: What have you realised about yourself and your ability to weather the storm?
BR: I am creative and resilient. It's weird to say, but I feel that I've been operating in chaos and always trying to figure things out that I continued that mindset in the pandemic. I know that I am blessed and that God always has my back, and I walked in that spirit. I spent a lot of time working on myself and pampering myself, which I never had the leisure time to do. I spent time diving into what I wanted and began to map out my new goals going forward. As I continued to do that, more and more opportunities were coming my way. I didn't have to do much to seek them out. I attracted everything like a magnet.
TF: Discuss the switch from pop-up dinners to cakes.
BR: Once I realised that conducting the dinner parties wasn't going to be the safest plan for myself and my guests, I began to lean more on my pastry skills. My friend's boyfriend asked me to make a cake for her and mail it to New York. I hadn't made a layered cake in so long and decided to give it a shot. The cake turned out beautiful, but it was a disaster by the time it reached NYC. The cake was smashed and looked nothing like that cake that I mailed off. After working on that cake, I figured it was something safe for me to do. I began to make cakes as practice and give them away (mainly to single moms) as a token of appreciation and joy. I knew that sweet treats bring a smile to people's faces, and I was happy to make them. I obsessively watched cake decorating videos to sharpen my skills and learn new techniques for decorating cakes. After a while, people began asking me for cakes, and I started my cake business. I had no idea that it would become what it is today. I am even stunned by the cakes that I can create.
TF: What lessons will you incorporate into the business?
I've learned a lot! There was a learning curve about the logistics of running a business in general. There is a lot of administrative work that I wasn't accustomed to, such as sending invoices, customer service, setting up my business correctly, and organising my time. I was getting inquiries left and right about private bookings, and it was totally overwhelming. I think I spent a good amount of time setting up systems and structure to keep me sane and organised. There is a big difference between being a chef and running a business, and I was learning as I was going.
TF: What does the rest of 2021 look like for you?
BR: In 2021, I am looking to grow my brand #dopegirlscook as an independent brand that generates revenue. #dopegirlscook is a lifestyle brand that empowerers women to step into the kitchen on their terms — bringing women to the forefront of food culture. There's also merchandise. Currently, the brand offers athleisure targeted to women at every level of the culinary industry. I am happy that there is a presence slowly building around the brand and that women want to be dope girls. I want to expand into podcasting and also venture into film and video production with the brand. I launched the Instagram page, and I post women that are in the industry working passionately on their craft. I hope it will offer exposure and open up an inclusive conversation about food and food culture
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login