Melinda B. Powers is a Lawyer Who Bakes
After one bite of her delectable desserts, there is no argument - Melinda Powers is a lawyer who can bake! This pastime has become more than a hobby, as Melinda switches gear and focuses on the science of baking. While she may be too busy these days to make it to the gym very often, Melinda is still getting quite a workout, as she transforms heavy cream into whipped cream - by hand.
How many years have you been in the business of food and how did you get started? Do you have a culinary background? How did you learn about baking?
I got started in the business of food in 2013 when my cousin convinced me to sell my banana pudding after I made it for her and her two daughters. It took me about six months to buy-in to the idea and when I did, I just started doing all that I could on my own from creating my logo to creating a recipe for my vanilla wafers to set myself apart. I had been cooking since the age of 7 but never formally trained. I just followed baking recipes but it wasn't until I began the business that I started to learn the chemistry behind baking. It truly is a science.
You participated in One Spark in 2015, as a new business. What was that experience like?
Yes, I was a creator during One Spark 2015. It was very overwhelming to know that so many people were in one space that I could introduce myself and my creations to. Being a one-woman show most times made it really difficult because I ended up making a lot more samples than I originally planned and by the end, I was totally exhausted. It was a good experience though because I was featured in the Times Union and Financial News and Daily Record because a fellow UNF student had written an article about me for UNF's own One Spark coverage. I still get recognized for that article sometimes.
As our region's food community grows, where do you see opportunities? What are the challenges?
I am so excited to see the most recent and upcoming developments in the local food community! I'm also a foodie so I look forward to trying them all like everyone else. But I also think it is great to see the region become more progressive with its offerings to help expand people's food experiences. I tend to notice that the transplants that live here are usually behind the innovative concepts. That keeps me inspired. The challenges may come with people feeling overwhelmed with so many options and the price points. Not everyone feels compelled to pay more for great food. Some people are content at a buffet or their favorite "hole in the wall" to save money and get "their money's worth."
From your experience, what's the biggest challenge to being a woman in the food business?
I just attended a meeting with other business women and it came up many times that we are sometimes not taken seriously. Though I do not focus on this, it does exist. For me, being "The Lawyer Who Bakes," I think that sometimes people take that to mean that I am serious about law and food is a hobby. It has always bugged me that it's in human nature to classify people and put them in certain boxes. Part of my motivation is to show others that I can do both and be successful. As a woman, I think we often feel like we have to prove our worth in business before people take notice.
What's the one thing most people don't know about owning their own food business, but should?
It is not easy and can be frustrating in the beginning. I find this especially relevant when you decide to do something that is not popular or common. As with anything, to find success, you have to be persistent and believe in yourself and your concept no matter what. It will always be worth it when you do that.
What is your favorite ingredient to work with, and why?
I don't know that I have a favorite but since I began baking I am fascinated with heavy cream because of how it can be manipulated into whipped cream and butter which allows for so much creativity as far as different flavors. There is nothing more rewarding than to hand whip heavy cream into whipped cream. It takes a while and is a heck of an arm workout!
Finally -- is there something, in particular, that draws you to food? If so, what is it and how has it captured your attention?
I just like to eat! I love flavor pairings, especially the really unique and unexpected ones that work so perfectly together. I liken my attraction to food to the movie Ratatouille. Remy smelled the food, saw colors and explosions. That's how I like to experience food. When food is of exceptional quality and prepared just right, nothing can compare to the joy and satisfaction you get from it. Now, I'm hungry!