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Five for Friday: Cake Artist, Dessert Designer, and Educator Emily Nejad

Five for Friday: Cake Artist, Dessert Designer, and Educator Emily Nejad

Five questions with creative Emily Nejad of Bon Vivant Cakes and event space Maven, whose audacious, lush, maximalist baking style has taken Chicago by storm.

1. Where do you find design inspiration?   
I follow a lot of wonderful oddball artists on Instagram and anytime I’m feeling stuck on a color palette or texture, I go hunting through their archives. Right now I’m in a textile & fiber art phase, which is probably pretty obvious if you’ve peeked at my recent work. @salt_stitches, @swingfibers, @seregarcia are some of my go-to artists.

Earlier this year I found myself catapulted out of a creative rut when I found glass artist @amber.cowan. I made myself so many weird monochromatic cakes based on her designs that were only borderline successful artistically, but they were such a productive exercise for me.

2. Personal motto?
EN: “My terms forever!” I have to agree with the inimitable Eartha Kitt on this one- I think the virtues of compromise have been greatly over-exaggerated.

The rest of my mottos are:

“Show them who you are, LET THEM SEE YOU”

“Do whatever you want all the time.” Which, I know, sounds like I’m a belligerent teen, but I’m actually just a grown-ass woman living in Trump’s America, tryna get free, and I want everyone around me to do the same.

3. If you could have dinner with someone, dead or alive, who would it be?

EN: I am firmly in "Never-Meet-Your-Idols" camp because I doubt that a lot of my heroes would live up to my fantasy of them. I think that the exception to that rule is Dolly Parton, who just seems so authentic, warm, and fun to be around. We will eat banana pudding and drink endless glasses of slightly sweet tea while she drops folksy wisdom and divulges every music industry /Hollywood secret that she knows.

4. What advice would you give someone who wants to get into your profession?

EN:  For aspiring food entrepreneurs: Operate out of your home kitchen until you’ve proved to yourself that there’s a market for your product. Is it illegal? Yes. Are City of Chicago food laws prejudicially designed to squash women & minority owned small business not bankrolled by a restaurant groups? Also yes. Don’t get caught.

Food artists: Practice practice practice. Make stuff that genuinely excites you, not what you think other people will like. Kill off the part of yourself that wants to perform for the approval of others- this quality will not serve you in the long term.

Small business owners: Designate a Professional and Personal Board of Trustees so that you’ll have people to lean on when you need help. There shouldn’t probably be a lot of overlap in these groups, your cheese monger doesn’t need to hear about your relationship drama. Boundaries are always a good thing.

5. And finally... do you have a favorite piece of jewelry?
EN: My handmade charm necklace from Buried Diamond. I’ve collected 9 of her charms over the years and it always makes me so happy to wear it. It’s not an “investment piece” in the traditional sense, but all the charms are handmade in resin, and it’s neat to have something lovingly made by the hands of an artist you respect. 

Many thanks to the bright + brilliant Emily for finding the time to chat with us! Have someone you'd like to see interviewed for our Five for Friday feature? Let us know via email or our contact us page.