Garbacz's Golden Hour: The Telling of a Food StoryMay 27, 2021 04:23PM ● By Kamrin Baker
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Angela Garbacz wasn’t raised on Rugrats or Powerpuff Girls, but rather a healthy television diet of the Food Network. Her favorite gift growing up was Emeril Lagasse’s cookbook Emeril’s New New Orleans Cooking, and in high school, she would camp out in the Barnes & Noble cooking section, copying recipes or ogling the beautiful images of cinnamon buns and cookie dough.
“Honestly, baking is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do,” Garbacz said.
Garbacz has a bachelor's degree in food science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and received her grand diplôme in classic pastry arts from the French Culinary Institute. For a little over six years, she worked in marketing at a biotech company but felt drained creatively and needed to up the ante. In 2014, she developed a food-related blog, moving away from her classic training and focusing on a more casual approach: simple and satisfying recipes from home. By May 2015, she opened her first storefront, specifically marketed to folks with food sensitivities, such as dairy, eggs, and gluten.
Her Lincoln, Nebraska, shop, Goldenrod Pastries, is popular and pretty, located on the corner of 48th Street and Prescott Avenue. Her second location, Goldenrod Coffee, is located inside The Bay near the university, attached to an indoor skate park and creative hub.
And, although Garbacz is proud of her Nebraska-grown gold, she knew she wanted her food in the hands of more people. After acquiring a literary agent in 2018, she released Perfectly Golden: Adaptable Recipes for Sweet and Simple Treats in April 2020.
“With Goldenrod, I was making things that satisfied something for people who were often restricted in what they could eat. I was teaching myself that it didn’t have to be that complicated, and I wanted to teach others, too,” Garbacz said. “Making food should be for everybody, and I wanted to create something accessible for people in technique, supplies, ingredients…I want to feed as many people as possible.”
The creative process was lean. She worked with a small editorial team from New York, as well as her in-bakery brand manager Maggie Carlson, and Daniel Muller, a longtime friend-turned-photographer. The entire book took five days to photograph.
The pair have a dynamic creative energy and worked quickly and candidly to make the cookbook come to life, according to Muller.
“Food always has a story. Whether it’s the ingredients or method, someone has poured time and energy into creating something delicious. Food is one of the most challenging things to photograph because of that. Pastries and baked goods are particularly fun to shoot because they emit joy,” Muller said. “It’s amazing to have my work published. My 4-year-old and I made Angela’s chocolate cake recently, and it was pretty wild using a book with my name on it.”
Muller’s photos, combined with Garbacz’s knack for storytelling, bring together a bright, welcoming pot of gold at the end of a rainbow of floral arrangements, hot pink icing, and fluffy cinnamon buns.
“It came together really well,” Garbacz said. “We luckily have this picturesque space on the corner of a cute neighborhood. The whole shop is an open kitchen, we have a cute pastry case, just a fully idyllic pastry shop experience. I wanted the book to feel the same way; I didn’t want it to be pretentious or something for a certain kind of person. It’s for everyone.”
When the book came out, COVID-19 had hit the world like an incoming comet. Garbacz had to cancel a national book tour and work tirelessly just to keep her space and staff alive and well. Eventually, she landed on virtual baking classes after some casual baking sessions on Instagram Live. She was able to generate some income baking from the book and in her last round of classes even welcomed attendees from Switzerland and Denmark.
“I thought April 2020 was going to be a hard time to release the book, but actually, everyone became this at-home, captive audience,” Garbacz said. “I had this new cookbook with pantry ingredients, and people were looking for something to make. I’ve heard so many stories where Perfectly Golden really became people’s first time enjoying baking, and I’ve felt so many personal connections. I’ll still get messages on Instagram from people cooking out of the book saying ‘OK, what’s happening?’ and I’m like, ‘Send me a pic, I’ll help you.’”
Over the years, Garbacz has balanced her baking savvy with a heart for social issues, developing a campaign called Empower Through Flour that connects women bakers and food fans to fundraise for the nonprofit I Am That Girl. Like many business owners in 2020, Garbacz was challenged in trying to support her staff and business while mindfully participating in a global dialogue on social issues, amplifying her passions and inspirations in a way she never anticipated.
“These days, I’m just very inspired by my team, the resilience of my industry, and happy and pleased about the resilience of myself and my book, and the ways we’ve reached out to people at a time when they need something to take their minds off the world,” Garbacz said. “I want to encourage and be encouraged by people who are treating their communities well.”
Wielding a whisk and a come-one, come-all cookbook, Garbacz may just change the heartland’s culinary industry for good.
To learn more about “Perfectly Golden” or Goldenrod Pastries, visit goldenrodpastries.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.