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Chef Nancy is getting a bigger kitchen

BY CATHY JETT

The aroma of freshly baked puff pastries fills chef Nancy Davis’ Spotsylvania County kitchen.

The tasty bites are the inspired marriage of leftover dough and some crushed, crystallized rose petals that happened to be on the counter. She now makes them with crystallized jasmine and violets as well.

“It melts in your mouth because it’s puff pastry,” said Davis, who enjoys experimenting with ingredients. “It’s very floral. It’s refreshing. It’s light and not overly sweet. Everybody loves them.”

The treats are just some of the hundreds of cakes, cookies, breads, brownies and a hearty version of chicken salad made with cream cheese that she’s been preparing in a cramped commercial kitchen in her basement. She sells them at Spotsylvania’s two farmers markets, FOODE in downtown Fredericksburg and through her website, nancysdesserts.com.

“In this business, you can’t say, ‘I just do breads,’” said Davis, who is one of just a handful of professional bakers in the Fredericksburg area. “I do sweet and savory.”

Demand for her creations has grown so much that she’s preparing to move into a 1,500-square-foot facility at 6320 Five Mile Centre Park on Aug. 1. Spice Rack Chocolates now occupies that space off State Route 3 in Spotsylvania but is moving to Spotsylvania Towne Centre.

“This is a leap of faith for me,” said Davis, who is the daughter of a Baptist preacher. “I’m excited and scared.”

Chef Nancy’s Creations, as the new location will be called, will feature a storefront where customers can buy made-from-scratch goodies such as cheese or fruit Danishes and bourbon walnut brownies along with a cup of coffee to go.

“It won’t be a doughnut shop,” said Davis.

She’ll also use the space to continue making the breads and other items she sells at the farmers markets; the rolls and breads she makes for FOODE; and the wedding, birthday and other cakes she bakes for special events.

“I like to use fresh, edible flowers on wedding cakes,” said Davis, who prefers buttercream frosting to fondant. “I like everything that I make to be edible. Nothing artificial. You have to use artificial colors and pastes to make flowers out of fondant. I can do it, but I don’t like the taste.”

Davis would also like to tap the corporate market by preparing gift baskets that Realtors could give as edible “thank yous” to clients when they buy a house or to organizations that are honoring members.

“There are more things that you can give people than a plaque,” she said.

Davis has been baking since she was 8 years old. Her first effort was a loaf of bishop’s bread, a type of yeast bread studded with candied fruit, chocolate chips and nuts. She followed it up with a batch of pocket—or pita—bread, which wasn’t well-known back then in her hometown of Bridgeport, Mich.

Her mother, who was a nurse, thought she’d ruined the dough and tossed it out. But a couple weeks later she read an article about pita bread and apologized.

“From then on, she’s never questioned anything I’ve made,” Davis said.

Davis soon began doing much of the family’s cooking. She became a caterer after her husband, Glen Davis, joined the Army. It was a career that she could take with her each time he was assigned to a new post.

Her husband, who was wounded during the Gulf War, retired in 2000.

Nancy Davis decided to use the educational assistance the government provides to the dependents of disabled vets to finally get her degree. She’d gone to college early in their marriage, but gave up after nearly three years because it was so hard to keep transferring credits.

“I really wanted that piece of paper,” Davis said. “I wanted that recognition that I’d worked hard to get that degree.”

She decided to follow her passion for baking and enrolled in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond. She earned her pastry arts career studies certificate by the end of 2010 and her culinary arts associate of applied science degree the following May.

Soon Davis was selling her banana crunch cupcakes, bacon cheddar bread, salted chocolate chip cookies and other baked goods at the Saturday morning farmers market on Gordon Road.

When the new farmers market opened this year from 3 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays in Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center’s parking lot, she added a meal-to-go that changes each week. Last week’s was chicken potpie and a cookie.

Davis said she loves the interaction with customers and other vendors at the markets. She owes the gluten-free line she’s created, for instance, to “two sweet little boys” who used to stop by her booth and ask if she had any cookies they could eat.

“They pushed me hard for gluten-free,” she said. “If a customer says they want something, I’ll make it.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

cjett@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/business/2012/06/29/chef-nancy-is-getting-a-bigger-kitchen/