Valentina Cordero, owner of the home-based vegan bakery the House of V, knows exactly what lies beyond the swinging doors of a restaurant kitchen. This boisterous, chaotic world -- packed with white coats and sweating brows -- contrasts heavily with the chic dining rooms and smooth lines of service that exist just a few steps away.
Cordero has more than a decade of experience in the pastry departments of fine-dining establishments. Her resumé includes stints at the now-closed Afterglo in Miami Beach; Étoile in Yountville, California; and Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery, also in Yountville.
At Bouchon Bakery, Cordero's shift began at 3 a.m. and finished at 11 a.m. In the early mornings, she'd go through her prep list and meticulously attend to each detail. In the kitchen, life was competitive, challenging, and pressure-filled. The environment in the famous Yountville bakery foiled the relaxed energy felt elsewhere across the Napa Valley.
The entire experience was demanding, but also rewarding. After a year of working under the tutelage of pastry chef Ethan Howard, Cordero now playfully admits, "If I can work at Bouchon, I can work anywhere."
However, it was during her work in these acclaimed restaurant kitchens that Cordero began dabbling in veganism.
Cordero moved back to Miami hoping for a more relaxed lifestyle -- away from all the stress of a restaurant kitchen. After beginning a 100 percent vegan diet, she experimented with vegan baking. But achieving a tender cake and rich frosting without butter or eggs proved extremely difficult.
Equipped with two KitchenAid standing mixers and a pantry full of all natural ingredients, she spent two full months testing recipes. Cordero tested cakes with coconut oil, whole-wheat unbleached flour, coconut flour, garbanzo flour, and organic sugar until finally reaching her goal.
After having perfected her craft, Cordero launched the House of V -- a home-based vegan bakery. "I just want to give people a healthier choice," she explains. She also hopes to replicate the textures and flavors of the nonvegan baked goods she mastered while working at Bouchon. With her skill and technique, the pastry chef aspires to amass vegan and nonvegan clients alike.
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"My vision is to decorate with nature," she says. Cordero shies away from garnishes like sprinkles or edible glitter. Her cupcakes are decorated with organic fruits and microgreens. "I love color, but a strawberry is perfect as it is."
Cordero's sweets aren't cheap, but she attributes their high prices to the use of the very best ingredients. A dozen cupcakes retails for $30, and a single cupcakes costs $4. The vegan baked goods are already available for purchase via her website. In the future, she hopes to also sell her pastries in coffee shops and restaurants across Miami.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.