Inside the Artist’s Kitchen and artist Kiam Marcelo Junio sit down and chat with Paper Moon Pastry’s proprietor Ana Katsenios. Ana has generously donated her adorable space to host Inside the Artist’s Kitchen presents: Jerry Blossom.
Kristina: When do you plan on opening your bakery officially?
Ana: Ideally, I’d like to open in the spring of this year. I’ve been in this space for over two years doing wholesale and building out the space out-of-pocket. But that just depends on how much money I can raise both through these events and through little pop-up sales and from the Indiegogo I have going on right now.
K: You said two years? If you were not selling stuff in the shop here, then how are you running as a bakery?
A: For two years, I’ve been doing wholesale, so before I moved into this space two years ago, I was already doing Paper Moon for another two years, renting space out of various kitchens in Logan Square. So my product, they’ve carried it at New Wave, the Dill Pickle [Food Co-op], Cafe Mustache, Township. I even had stuff at the Logan Theatre for a while. I’ve baked for Off Chances, I was doing I Am Logan Square Events, farmers markets, the Logan Square Night Market. When the Logan Square Kitchen was open, I was doing their pastry market.
K: I saw your Indiegogo video, and in it, you’re sort of barhopping? Is that the right word? Do you still do that?
A: Well, I do, but I made a pastry wagon. I basically put a bakery on wheels and would wheel around with, but it got a little cold. I did that because I wanted people to know where the pastry was coming from and who I was and get them excited, so I got this idea to sell the pastry cigarette girl-style with a tray. And I’m just a night person in general, and I love bars so much, so, I was like, “OK, well, I’ll try this.” There was about five bars I’d go to, and I talked to the owners, and it was fine. I started with soft pretzels, and that went really well, and pretty soon, I was hitting up these bars four or five nights a week, and that’s what’s in the video. It shows me going around from bar to bar selling the pastries. I don’t do it right now anymore, because it’s always just been me, and I want these markets to be successful, and I just want to bring people here. After Christmas time, it just got so cold, and I got so busy that I stopped for a little while, but I haven’t given up on it.
K: It’s not an over-with plan? It looked really fun.
A: It was really cool. It was definitely really fun. It’s not as easy as it looks. I don’t know if it looks easy.
K: It did look pretty effortless.
A: It’s difficult to go up to total strangers drinking in bars and convince them to buy pastry, and there’s no drugs in it or anything. They’re like, “Why would I want a cookie?” “Because it tastes good!” It took a little while to get people to understand that I was not selling drugs in cookies. It took a lot of energy. It was a good social exercise for me for sure, but it’s nice to take a break.
Michael: Did you ever cross paths with the tamale guy?
A: Totally. We’re all good—me and the photo guy, the polaroid guy, and the tamale guys.
K: You’re friends now?
A: Yes. We just saw each other so often, and I’d give them cookies, and they would give me tamales. We got to a place where we would see each other and do this cool quick high-five. Same with the hot dog lady that sells stuff outside The Owl. We’re all doing our thing. If you’re out there doing this, it takes something. Why don’t you just make tamales in someone’s kitchen? No, you want to do this yourself and have this freedom, and if you’re a vendor, a peddler, a carnie, whatever you want to call it, you see somebody enough, there’s definitely a little nod of kinship just because we’re out in the same places, and we don’t even speak the same language.
K: That must be fun for you. Earlier, you mentioned the markets that you want to make successful. Are you doing them monthly until maybe a grand opening?
A: Yeah. I’m going to do that. And then, who knows? I love the look of the place as a boutique, so my ideal situation is like a market every day, almost. The atmosphere the market created, I’d love it to look like that all the time in here. Have a lot of local vendors, having their items set up, and have just a little cafe area.
K: How did last weekend work out?
A: Awesome. The weather was terrible on Saturday. Tons of snow, but still, people showed up, and the clothing did really well, the jewelry did really really well. A lot of people just came out. Actually, the event was written up in the Red Eye in the “Eat, Drink, Do” section as something to check out, so we definitely got a lot of people poking their heads in.
K: That’s awesome. Do you have the rest of the calendar dates already picked out?
A: I pick out the dates probably a month in advance. I’m not sure about the March one yet. My idea for March was the “March Meet Market.” Not the food meat, but I would bring in to meet your neighbors kind of thing. I’m trying to spin that to have the vendors in here, but also have a day where different people have these slots and “meets.” “Meet Joe—Joe is the bartender at so-and-so, and he’s going to do this drink demo for you. Meet Paul, he’s the Chamber of Commerce rep, and he’s going to come in here and be taking questions.” Stuff like that. That was my idea for March.
Kiam: I love that—you’re really building a community.
A: Hopefully. That’s what took shape naturally with bringing so many people and involving them, so I’m going with it. I love it.
Kiam: It’s a really smart strategy.
A: I love what I do, but I always gravitate towards this work. When I was younger, I would always go into organizations that were like… I got really heavily involved with The A-zone, which was an anarchist community center in Chicago. What mainly enamored me with them was that they had a DIY community space, and they would do things like make vegan ice cream and have ice cream socials. They had a library, they hosted different people’s events. A-zone stood for “Autonomous Zone.” It was an autonomous space for community organizing, and I just loved that model. I’ve never forgotten that model. I go towards that naturally.
K: It seems to be working so far. This is maybe a step backwards, but you have a focus on vegan/gluten-free pastry options? Do you want to talk more about those?
A: Sure. Basically, there’s two or three things I could say about that. One, The passion of what I do. Something I really enjoy about what I do is that I make this thing, and it makes people happy, and dietary restrictions—vegan, gluten-free—that’s just a reality right now. It’s just the way it is with people being more conscious of what they eat, so for me, it’s just worthwhile to just make it vegan or gluten-free in the first place and make it taste wonderful so that anyone would want to get in and eat it, and that person with the dietary restriction naturally can participate without having to go to any weird extremes about it.
Second of all, business-wise, it makes sense for me as a small bakery and a small business. The masses wanting pie and cookies will go to Jewel and buy a pie. They’ll go and get a Snickers bar. But the people who will come to us smaller bakeries and bakers like me are people who need something special. They want something natural or organic or vegan or gluten-free, and they know that coming to a smaller bakery, they’ll be able to get a specialized dessert with those qualifications, so it just does not make sense for me business-wise to not fill those niches.
And then finally, I love vegan stuff. I’m not vegan, but I was for a very long time, and that is how I learned to cook and to bake before I went to school, before I worked in a professional kitchen. I was vegan and got a vegan cookbook, and it taught me all the substitutions, and I learned how to make flavors and make things the hard way. Instead of just throwing eggs and milk together. Maybe you cook a zucchini and purée it, and it makes something else, and you just learn how to fool around with food and transform food into other things, and it definitely ignited a creative sense in me, so I’ll always have vegan stuff. It’s delicious, why not?
K: I’ve only had the brownies, but they were really good, and I don’t know what else you make that’s vegan or gluten-free.
A: Oh, all of my cookies are vegan.
K: Even the regular chocolate chip?
A: Yeah. The bars and granola are also vegan.
K: Cool. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: Please, please, please, donate money. I really really really want to open. I work very hard night and day. I want to make a great space and improve the neighborhood, and I just really want to open.
You can help Paper Moon Pastry open by clicking here!