After working in the restaurant industry, as a pastry chef for the last five years, and then as a personal chef, Heather Schmidt knew she was ready for a change. Schmidt contemplated opening her own bakery, but the early, long hours didn’t fit into the vision she had for her life.
“I didn’t want to be chained to the bakery,” said Schmidt (pictured below). “I want to be happy in my business and my life. I wanted a business that could be flexible and grow, that’s what’s important to me in life.”
So Schmidt decided to put her vast cooking and baking knowledge to work for her by launching City Chicks Boston, which she bills as 21st century home economics classes and parties for modern women–and men. And she found a home for her business at Kitchen Inc. (201 Somerville Ave.) after working with JJ Gonson of Cuisine en Locale and Josh Danoff of Culinary Cruisers/Ocean Ave Pops.
“There’s a lot of crossing over there,” Schmidt said of Kitchen Inc. “It’s like a co-op. Everyone is so supportive. We have the same ideals. I don’t know what I would do without it.”
Schmidt’s classes cover everything from brewing coffee, for which she turns to Kitchen Inc.’s David Simon, who owns Black Magic Coffee, and making donuts to shucking oysters and making homemade Halloween candy.
And while food is clearly Schmidt’s passion, there are also classes on how to do at-home bang trims, blowouts and up-dos as well as applying natural and vintage make-up. Schmidt teaches many of the food classes and brings in other professionals for the rest.
“The baking stuff is my thing,” Schmidt said. “My strong suit is food, so I’m bringing in other people who are experts.”
I recently had the opportunity to attend Schmidt’s pie-making class, which felt much more like a fun social gathering than school. When I arrived, Schmidt had set out seasonal snacks, like cheese and bread, Concord grapes and hummus with vegetables for attendees to nibble on. There were also very tasty pumpkin caramels made by Caitlin Barry of The Happy Homemade, who is teaching the homemade Halloween candy class this Thursday.
“I like it being social,” Schmidt said of her classes. “You can go with your girlfriends to a class and learn something. You can learn a skill set that our mothers had and apply it to our modern lives.”
Schmidt lead the class through the steps of making two very different–and delicious–pies. First she demonstrated how to make a chocolate pudding pie with a graham cracker crust, giving out little tips and tricks along the way, like how to temper eggs (bringing the eggs up to a high temperature by adding hot milk to them without scrambling them).
Next up was a demonstration on how to make the perfect pie crust, which we turned into mini rustic apple tarts. Schmidt recommends using an apple like macoun or cortland for pies because they are firm and not too juicy. She also stressed the importance of keeping everything–including the mixing bowl–very cold when making pie dough.
“Apple pie is something that you have to know how to make,” Schmidt said. And we definitely did after her thorough–and fun–class. The best part? Getting to taste both the rustic apple tart and chocolate pudding pie at the end!
Any and all are welcome at the classes, which range in price from $55-$75 right now. They are often held during the week in the evening (6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.), but some, like the coffee and donuts event, take place on Sunday afternoons.
Schmidt has big ideas for future City Chicks classes, like taking trips to apple orchards and a multi-part knitting lesson. And she’s found the perfect place to nurture her business and help it grow.
“Union Square is booming,” Schmidt said. “It’s a tight, exciting community. I think that the types of classes I’m offering fit in with the community of Somerville. The more we all support each other, the more we support Union Square and Somerville. I feel so fortunate to be part of it.”