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Community Highlights: Meet Amber Croom of And 4 Dessert Confectionery Studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amber Croom.

Hi Amber, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I first fell in love with baking and pastry arts in the kitchen with my mother in Birmingham, AL. My most fond memories are learning about the ins and outs of baking the perfect after-dinner confection from her. After years in the corporate setting, I could no longer deny the pull I felt to the kitchen. I have always had a deep affinity for cooking, eating, and making people happy with my pastries and it was time to turn my passion into my business. From this unbridled passion and determination and 4Dessert was born.

In 2010, I decided to leave the comfort and stability of my desk job and pursue a culinary degree in Baking and Pastry Arts at The Culinard in Birmingham, AL. It was both rewarding and stressful, much like the food industry. Immediately following school, I was awarded an externship with Rimini Gelato and Chocolates, located in the ski resort towns of Beaver Creek, CO, and Vail, Colorado, where I went from confectioner apprentice to pastry sous chef within a year. This is where my scientific knowledge of artisanal chocolates was cultivated.

I learned about various types of international pastries aboard the 6-star cruise line Silver Sea. This is where my passion and love for food blossomed. It was here that I learned great baking goes beyond following a recipe; it’s knowing how to season ingredients to coax the greatest possible flavor from them. I was able to utilize this teaching in the creation of many different pastry profiles.

I took my first Executive role in 2013 where I spent three years creating and perfecting the dessert menu for the fine dining restaurant Bellini’s Ristorante and Bar in my hometown of Birmingham, AL. I introduced an ice cream program that featured seasonal gelatos and sorbettos. Some of my favorite flavors were Caramelized Pineapple and Thyme Gelato, Salted Pistachio and Honey, and Passion Fruit Limoncello Sorbetto. I made the move to Baltimore, MD in 2017 to help open the pastry department at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel. Soon after I was offered the opportunity to run the chocolate department at the largest catering company in Washington, D.C., Occasions Caterers.

My desire is to always evolve and be challenged as Pastry Chef. My passion, discipline and creativity brought about the opportunity for me to compete in the Food Network Holiday Baking Championship 2016 this past April/May. It was an amazing experience that tested me beyond measure. One that lead me to compete on the inaugural season of Food Network’s Chopped Sweets where I took home the title of champion. Its still surreal that I get to say that “I’m a Chopped Champion”.

In 2020 I officially launched and 4Dessert, a baking and pastry experience that melds modern opulence with nostalgic comfort. I create art that is often too beautiful to eat, but when you do it warms your soul and brings you back to a place of your fondest memories and 4 Dessert is where art meets sweet.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely hasn’t been a road free of blockage. When you are a woman in the kitchen that carries its own set of challenges. You couple that with being a woman of color and you’ll have someone who is in a fight every day just to prove their worth and to be heard. When I worked on the cruise ship that is where I found my voice. I had to be assertive and vocal.

Even sometimes louder than I normally wanted to be. But that’s what my male counterparts responded to. You can’t be afraid to voice your opinion for fear of being labeled an angry black woman. You also can’t be afraid to call out the economic disparity between women and men in the kitchen. I think oftentimes we as women are afraid to ask to be paid what we’re worth because we feel undeserving or that our seats at the table will be revoked.

How many times how you seen less qualified people getting the opportunities you want? You know why? Because they aren’t afraid to ask for it and take it. They don’t let doubt stop them. And neither should you. And if by chance you aren’t afforded a seat at the table then create your own and provide the opportunities for others that were denied to you.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
And 4 Dessert is an appointment-only confectionery studio that provides elegant pastries, hand-painted chocolates, and custom confections. We curate beautifully detailed creations using our own distinctive style of art meets sweet. I created A4D from my niche of drawing inspiration from art, fashion, and nature to capture attention, draw people in, delight and surprise. My mission is to provide personalized confections so each bite becomes a cherished memory. We also offer private, group, and corporate pastry classes in a studio, streaming, and on location.

I’m proud that we’ve had the opportunity to be featured on the Food Network “Holiday Baking Championship” and “Chopped Sweets” where we took home the championship.

Risk taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Honestly, I used to be deathly afraid of taking risk. I was so scared of failing that I would talk myself out of many opportunities. I had such a negative relationship with failure. I put so much pressure on myself to not make the wrong decisions in my life, both professionally and personally. I had to learn that failure is an integral part of being successful and it’s where all the lessons are. I had to see where the lesson lied in those failures and use them to propel me to my next level.

One of the biggest risks I took was choosing not to return back to work for someone else and believing that I could build my dream with And 4 Dessert. I was taking one of the biggest risks of my life and the hardest part was knowing that I had all the things I needed to be successful. I knew that I didn’t want to live with the regret of not knowing what could have if I just leapt. Life will be full of success and failures…It’s inevitable. But you can’t let that fear stop you from at least trying. So fail and fail often because somewhere in between is the success you’re looking for.

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Image Credits
Kate Grewal & Daniel McGarrity (Native Vision Filmworks)

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