We started the Becoming interview series after reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming in our book club a few years ago. We wanted to hear from women in different walks of life and how they were approaching creativity, mothering, career goals, and more. It’s been amazing to conduct these interviews and get a “behind the scenes” look at so many inspirational women!
Today’s interviewee is Loria Stern, whose beautiful botanical baking has captured so many imaginations! We’ve been following Loria on Instagram for some time, and we’re thrilled that she agreed to an interview on The House that Lars Built.
Loria Stern comes from a small town called Ojai located in Southern California. Loria loved to cook as soon as she could stand on a kitchen stool. She grew up gardening and helping in the kitchen and was the kid that ordered the bran muffin at the donut shop (she never liked treats that were too sweet). Loria spent her youth attending hippie schools where the love for nature was instilled at a young age. Loria was also a competitive tennis player– at 12 years old she was ranked #1 in the US for her age. She went on to play Division 1 college tennis and played professional tournaments there after. During that time she was always cooking for herself and friends. She didn’t start working in the culinary industry until 2010, however she never looked back after her love for working with her hands and cooking for people was very clear. Instead of attending culinary school, she worked at a number of bakeries, cafes, high end restaurants and hotels to hone in her culinary skills.
In 2011, Loria Stern started attending adult education classes entitled “Medicinal and Edible Plants” where she learned about foraging and the power of plant medicine. She started combining her culinary skills with the knowledge she was learning about botanicals. All the while she was posting her bespoke creations on Instagram. In 2016 her work was highlighted in Vogue Magazine and she received over 30,000 followers overnight. Fans were asking where they could purchase her treats so she started selling them on her website. The first day she posted her treats, she received over 20 orders. Since that day, her business has grown into a successful baking operation where she employs 4 helpers with living wages. She’s still growing her business, writing a cookbook and pitching a TV show. Exciting things are in store for this hardworking woman!
Meet Loria Stern
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, baker, business person, educator, etc.?
Well, I consider myself all of these things but more so one than the other depending on what day of the week we’re talking about. I would say I started out as an artist and maker, and then became a baker and now my daily tasks are more of a business person and educator.
Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?
I grew up in Ojai, CA, a small quaint town nestled in between large mountains but just a 20 minute drive to the beach. The town had a lot of nature–my childhood neighborhood streets were lined with tall oak trees. There was and still is a huge element of health consciousness and spirituality in Ojai and I think those elements absolutely influenced what I do now and the person I’ve become.
What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?
Of course I wanted to be a professional tennis player! That dream ended around 14 years old and then I wanted to be an artist. I guess that dream has come true except through a different medium (culinary arts vs. the visual arts).
Is there a person who has been influential in your chosen career path?
Not really one single person, but more so a number of different friends who loved eating the foods I cooked and baked for them and encouraged me to follow this path.
What sparked your interest in edible flowers?
I’ve always loved flowers (who doesn’t?!) but it wasn’t until I started learning about the medicinal properties of botanicals in my 3 semesters of the adult education classes that my love for combining edible flowers + botanicals with cooking and baking, really opened up an entire new craft for me.
What are three words to describe your style?
Creative, happy and cool.
What is your educational background and how has it shaped or changed your current career?
I graduated with a BA from college and spent my last year painting and drawing. I was in an art show in my final year of college and sold several pieces. As noted earlier, I also took 3 semesters of adult education classes post college– “Medicinal + Edible Plants” and learned a lot about treating ailments naturally with wild, edible plants. I also attribute my dedication as a competitive tennis player to my strong work ethic, which I think is the most important aspect of my current success.
Have you ever made a big career switch? If so, what prompted that? Are there aspects of a prior career that you incorporate into what you do now?
I did not really have a career after graduating college in 2006–I more so worked a bunch of odd jobs to pay the rent–teaching tennis, nannying, working as an assistant, etc. It was not until 2010 when I worked my first job as a prep chef that I really learned my love for the culinary arts and that I wanted to make this a career.
What inspired you to become a baker/florist/gardener?
My love for nature, working with my hands and discovering new alchemic combinations.
What is one piece of work that you are especially proud of and why?
I love making tall tiered wedding cakes and delivering them to the venue. It is always so rewarding.
Where do you find inspiration for new creations?
In nature first and foremost.
How do you make social connections in the creative realm?
Many via Instagram, I’ve met some of my best friends and have found a beautiful, supportive community of my work there.
What artists and creatives do you look up to, both historical and present?
Gah, there are so so many! Truly too hard to just pinpoint a few.
What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?
My father was a jazz clarinetist and music pervades much of my childhood. I love all types of music and have found there is a time and a place for every genre of music. I love documentaries and listening to podcasts. But I try to stay away from negative media as it definitely affects my mood.
What is a piece of advice that you have carried with you and who is it from? Do you have a personal motto?
Work hard and always do your best. Hold yourself and others accountable. Treats others how you’d want to be treated.
What is your workspace like? Has it changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic last year?
I moved to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara just one month before the pandemic began. I had to find a new commercial kitchen and employees within that time and it was extremely difficult to say the least. Looking back, I feel so grateful for the commercial baking space and my LA helpers.
How do your surroundings influence your work?
So much. I realized I am creatively motivated by my physical space. I love natural light and need to be close to nature.
Describe some habits that keep you motivated and productive. How do you climb out of a creative slump?
Exercise is always a good idea and I have found it to be the number one cure for all sorts of slumps.
What is a typical day like for you?
I enjoy waking up early. I drink coffee first thing in the morning, then I’ll mosey around my backyard garden with coffee in hand. I’ll stroll up to my home office, check business and personal emails, and then the day is off and running. I usually pick edible botanicals from my garden then meet my team at the bakery. We start cranking our baking orders and then before I know it, it’s 6pm! Then I’ll come home, meet up with my boyfriend and we’ll cook dinner and watch a show.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?
To learn as much as you can about the hobby / skill. There is so much readily available information that one can learn online that school is not necessary as long as there is curiosity, dedication and a strong work ethic.
Do you have a secret talent? What is one skill that you are working on?
I’d say tennis is my secret talent for those who are just meeting me now! Otherwise, I’m working on learning how to surf but it’s extremely hard!
Nobody likes to talk about it, but can you share any advice regarding financing your business?
Gah, I am still trying to figure that out. I have not accepted investment from outside sources however am currently looking into it to grow my business!
Is there anything more you would like to “become?”
I’d like to become more well-traveled. I want to visit Japan, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Sweden, and the list continues! I want to visit these places and learn about new ingredients and cooking techniques and share those with an audience so that they can live on and evolve into our current day’s food.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next 10 years?
First and foremost, I hope to remain healthy! Secondly, I hope to open up a physical commissary kitchen with a retail space, classroom and on-site edible flower garden so that I can teach my botanical infused culinary arts to the greater community. There is so much information that I find so inspiring and interesting, I am sure others will as well.
Can’t get enough of Loria Stern?
Years ago we wrote a post about using edible flowers, and I hope that this interview with Loria Stern makes you even more excited to incorporate beautiful botanicals into your meals (like this edible flower pot).
Read more Becoming interviews here to keep the inspiration flowing!
All photos are courtesy of Loria Stern.