Meet Gena from Sweetness the Patisserie

By Georgia Booth

Meet Gena, from Sweetness the Patisserie. We adore her here at Real Food not only for her passion for all things sweet, amazing artisan skills but also because we have a stash of rocky road that often comes in handy around 3pm. 

Gena Karpf, founder of Sweetness the Patisserie, grew up in Omaha, Nebraska in a food-loving family. Gena was drawn to sweets and baking in particular at a young age, and had mastered pies, cakes and cookies by the time she was a teenager. Her love for baking never diminished and in 2005 she decided to leave her job in the technology world and become a fully qualified pastry chef.

Her beautiful store, Sweetness the Patisserie has been around for five years, famous for the delectable house made ‘SWEET mallows’ (marshmallows) and the open kitchen where customers can see the wonders of making delicious desserts.

When asked what her favourite flavor of marshmallow is, I didn’t expect her to choose vanilla. Then she explained that a company called Heilala provides the vanilla they use, situated in Tonga and dedicated to producing high quality organic vanilla. “When it melts in a cup of hot cocoa, it really is something else. Things that are simple are often the best,” Gena says. The most popular flavours are passionfruit, which she describes as “a total showstopper,” followed by raspberry.

If there is one thing she’d like others to understand about the slow food, artisan movement, it’s that it’s far more difficult than people realise to put it into practice economically. “Everyone feels good when people talk about organics and slow food but few people realise the effort and investment goes into making that happen. It’s not hard to do, it’s just very hard to make money from it,” Gena says. “There is a very human cost in trying to make hand made food – we are unique in that we are not industrialised. It can be done, but it is a real challenge,” she says. 

With every decision she makes, there are many factors she weighs up – it is extremely important that she buys local, supports farmers, chooses fair trade but at the same time, quality and consistency are equally as important. The core principle is to make artisan products by hand that are the best they can be. If the standard of product she needs is not available to her locally, she buys elsewhere. 

Gena's not sure yet what she’ll be buying at the Christmas markets, but she’s happy it will be edible. “I want to buy things that at the end of their use, there is nothing left, things that people can have a great experience consuming. A gift that is enjoyed and then finished is a good gift.”