by Kristin L. Wolfe
It took mere minutes for me to fall in love with Chef Kim Wood when I spent an afternoon with her last fall. We were in the commercial kitchen she rents in Canton and she ran circles around me like she was conducting an orchestra. She had seven things going all at once, barely broke a sweat, but still managed to answer my nutty questions and make me swoon as she fed me things to taste.
The swirling about may look easy but she says plainly, “It’s hard. Being a woman in any industry is hard enough, but to be running my own business as a mother, and a mother of a small child, is really difficult,” she told me during a more recent conversation. “Just today, however, my son Bennet felt like he was in charge as he helped me and put sprinkles on some cakes we made.” Moments like these are short-lived though, she admits, as she reflects on how trying it can be to fulfill orders and deliveries and keep her son occupied and happy. I reminded her about my son Xavier, once a highly active little boy; now a young man at 20, but still quite energetic! Striking a balance can be difficult already, let alone amidst a pandemic.
Moving, starting a family, and starting a business within the last two years might not be a recipe for everyone to follow, but Wood is taking one day at a time and making it work. Despite the crazy year everyone has had, “The weekend of Valentine’s,” she said “was amazing, but there are already lessons to be learned.” Nevertheless, she is overcome with gratitude from the support and positive feedback.
Born in Vietnam, she came to the States with her parents as one of six siblings. They created a new home in Fort Worth, Texas. Out of that busy home, Wood had a desire to stand out and dream big. She earned a business degree from University of Oklahoma then specialized in French Pastry at the Art Institute of Houston. Digging in deeper, wanting to hone her craft, she studied under a master, Executive French Pastry Chef Frédéric Larre. As a member of the Académie Culinaire de France, with a tremendous reputation, she remains close to him even today. “He continues to be someone I look to. He is honest and pushes me to keep improving.”
Wood did not just move from pastry studies to her business, Le Banh Patisserie. She really put in the time and gained valuable experience. She worked as Pastry Sous Chef at Exxon Mobil headquarters in Houston, then at Foxwoods here in Connecticut. And like many of us who are transplants here, she fell in love with local farmers and their sense of community and having quality ingredients at the ready.
In the midst of starting a family and starting over professionally, Wood took the plunge for Le Banh. Just before the pandemic, she was able to get started with the help of Hands on Hartford, an organization with so many services for the community. Wood was able to rent space through their Shared-Use Kitchen program for small business owners. During her time there she was able to create her menu and perfect her pastry technique.
A year later, Le Banh Patisserie fulfills Wood’s longtime dream of having a French dessert delivery service. Her training and treats are rooted in French pastry but she will never, of course, forget her Vietnamese roots. Le Banh means cake, as a matter of fact, in Vietnamese. Her technique is very specific and when done well, as Wood does, it is simply gorgeous on sight. It’s subtle, exquisite, and delicious. And her packaging, complete with bows, flowers, and notes in clear boxes, are treasured gifts in and of themselves.
When discussing Femfluent, she was especially eager to make note that despite her serious connection with male mentors in the industry, she would not be where she is today without some of her female collaborators and connections. “They are the ones who really gave me the push to just do it, and continue to support me every step of the way.” She admits, when women are able to support one another, there’s no end to what they can do. “It is much more powerful than listening to or spreading negativity.”
From their Signature Banh and Mini Banh to Petit gâteax, Bànhsicles, Cookies and MY FAVORITE, the Cannelés Bordelais, Le Banh Patisserie is evolving as we speak. At our last conversation in February, Wood was giddy with excitement over a slew of new flavor combinations she’ll be presenting soon.