Case Study: Red Cap Patisserie
– By the Veggie Fairy Team
When you buy local food, your money stays in your community instead of going to some faraway corporate headquarters. Buy local food and your dollars create jobs at local farms, food distribution systems like Seasonal Roots, and food artisans like Red Cap Patisserie, which employs eight talented people in Richmond, Virginia.
So you can indulge that craving for, say, handmade chocolate, guilt-free, with Red Cap’s Dark Chocolate Toasted Almond Sour Cherry Bark. Not only is it good for the community, it’s also better for you than mass-produced chocolate. It’s freshly made, with no preservatives or artificial flavors.
And you can feel virtuous about it, too — compared to the global industrial food complex, food from a local artisan like Red Cap Patisserie uses less fuel and produces less CO2. So local food belches fewer greenhouse gases and fights global warming. That’s cool.
(Read this full list of 10 ways local food helps you live better.)
For two decades, pastry chef Martine Wladar handcrafted delicious treats for cafés and restaurants in New York City and New Jersey. We talked with her husband and partner John about how they found their way to Richmond, Virginia, where they now work together on their unique take on traditional French- and European-inspired fare.
You both grew up in New Jersey. How did you wind up in Richmond’s historic Fan district?
It was a corporate relocation on my part in 2013. Martine had been working in the food industry for years, so we created a kitchen in our home where she could bake more seriously than she could with a residential oven. We signed up for the Saint Stephen’s Farmers Market and did that regularly.
After a couple years, a space opened up in the Fan and we were fortunate enough to acquire it. That let us open the retail operation and expand the commercial operation. Meanwhile I left my corporate job and began working for Martine. I’ve only been fired a couple times and she always takes me back.
Ha! But… not all couples can actually work together without killing each other. What’s your secret?
It’s something we work very hard at. We’ve been married since 1988, but when we embarked on this it changed our dynamic in many ways. You learn to be patient and just be quiet and listen and really try to hear the other person, which is a good practice whether you work together or not!
So in our market, to start with you’ll be offering Chocolate Chip Brownies, Salty Sweet Pecans, super adorable Marshmallow Chicks, Sea Salt Caramels, and lots of dark chocolate treats. In addition to that, in your shop you offer all kinds of freshly baked sweet and savory pastries. How do you decide what to offer?
What we offer is guided by Martine’s intuition and inspiration. She’s had a lifelong love for baking and cooking. She’s taken various courses at cooking schools and perfected her skills on the job, and opening the shop was a unique opportunity to pull her expertise together in both baking and cooking.
How did Martine learn the chocolate side of the business?
She has worked with Jacques Torres, who is a famous French chocolate master. When we opened this place she said, “You know, eventually I really want to offer chocolate!” Within a year and a half we had built up enough in-house staff to break out and offer chocolate treats and caramel. She really loves caramel, so we do our own caramel in-house and blend our own chocolate in-house. We like a particular chocolate taste. Some chocolates are too bitter, some have too much “cherry” flavor, some are just too sweet. We blend it to hit that sweet spot in between.
How do you choose your ingredients?
It’s about quality in terms of the craft of making an excellent product that you can feel good about eating. Whenever possible, we source our ingredients locally. We’ll barter at the farmers market for eggs. We’re using real ingredients — real cream, real butter, real flour. No ingredients you can’t recognize or pronounce. That makes for a delicious product and a healthier one, even when it’s a treat.
What’s your carbon footprint like?
We’re local, so we’re close to our customers. We also aim for sustainability in packaging. We try not to use any styrofoam and reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use as well as the packaging our supplies come in. We recycle everything that leaves the kitchen — unlike larger establishments, where everything just goes in the dumpster.
Red Cap Patisserie shares Seasonal Roots’ mission to make the world a better place through local food! If you want to see the full range of Martine’s creations, check out the mouthwatering photo gallery on the Red Cap Patisserie Instagram page. If you’re inspired to stop by Martine and John’s shop the next time you’re in Richmond, you’ll find directions on their website.
ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS
Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pasture-raised dairy, eggs, and meat, plus wholesome artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.