Fearless Baking: Chef Paola Velez Folds in Racial Culture and Pastries with a Pop-Up

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

How do we overcome our country’s systemic racism? Bakers Against Racism co-founder and Washington DC executive pastry chef Paola Velez (Maydān, Compass Rose) joins Billy Shore and Share Our Strength Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Pamela Taylor to talk about finding the courage to speak out against racism and other forms of injustice. “We didn’t think this was going to go viral. We launched on Thursday night around 7pm and by 10pm we had 200 participants around the world ready to bake… We were able to raise almost $2M in less than 2 weeks,” recounts Velez. “Whenever I think about race relations in America, I think it boils down to one common thread. We need to love harder than we’ve ever loved before. We need to truly transform our nation with the action of caring for others as if they were ourselves,” she says.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Velez was furloughed and forced to file for unemployment benefits. “I was scared and I was broken. I realized that if I’m feeling this way and I have all these accolades, imagine somebody who doesn’t have any of this,” she says. “My focus was shifted. COVID changed everything, so I started speaking up… I had no fear because I had lost it all,” she explains.

Resources and Mentions:

Paola Velez

Paola Velez

Pastry Chef
Paola Velez is the executive pastry chef at Washington DC restaurants Maydān and Compass Rose. Previously she was the executive pastry chef at Kith and Kin. She is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and has worked with master chocolatier Jacques Torres in New York and Christina Tosi at the D.C. location of Milk Bar. Velez co-founded Bakers Against Racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2020, she was nominated for James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award.

Bakers Against Racism

Bakers Against Racism is unofficially the world’s largest bake sale. To date it has raised almost $2M for organizations that support social justice causes.