Jaclyn Joseph has had a passion for baking and creating beautiful, delicious desserts for as long as she can remember. Beginning with time spent in the kitchen with her grandmother, great-aunt and mother, Jaclyn learned the ropes at a young age. She has had the opportunity to work for a number of well-known Louisville establishments and even spent the winter of 2011 working as a pastry chef for the USA houses at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Today, Jaclyn serves as the Executive Pastry Chef at the Falls City Market in the new Omni Hotel in Louisville. She brings her culinary commitment and extensive background to one of the city’s newest, most exciting developments, and we’re thrilled to introduce her as today’s FACE of Louisville.
What first sparked your interest in the culinary arts and ultimately compelled you to pursue a career as a pastry chef?
I grew up surrounded by the love for baking. My grandmother, great-aunt and mother were always in the kitchen whipping up something sweet. They did it as a hobby and, occasionally, even as a business. When I was younger, my mother made wedding cakes for friends and family, and I always found myself right there beside her, covered in flour and icing. However, my goal in life was not always to become a pastry chef. Conversely, in college, I began studying dietetics and nutrition — I wanted to be a personal trainer. But not too far into my first year of college, an old love reignited, and I became consumed with passion. There was no turning back after that.
I understand you’re a graduate of Sullivan University. Are you a Louisville native? Which Louisville restaurants have you worked in?
I’m actually not a Louisville native. I’m from Eastern Kentucky — a small mountainous city known as Prestonsburg. I solely came to Louisville to attend Sullivan University, but then the city grew on me, and I decided to make it home. While attending Sullivan, I worked at The Bakery at Sullivan, then briefly moved to assist in the commissary at Desserts by Helen. Shortly after that, I stumbled upon the Brown Hotel — and thus my love for hotels began.
Tell me about your experience working on the 2011 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, and how you received such an exciting opportunity.
The experience was unlike any other. I had an excitement for all things new — the traveling, the culinary team, the beauty of Vancouver and especially the camaraderie amongst the natives. It was amazing, but it was also a lot of hard work. We consistently worked 14- to 15-hour days preparing desserts for the Whistler and Vancouver USA houses. When I submitted my entry for the competition to attend the Olympics, I had no idea the realities of what it was going to be like. We had a group of 35 to 40 students who applied to try out. The trials consisted of five to six different levels with obstacles thrown our way — missing ingredients, ovens being cut off, etc. They wanted to see how each student would react in a time of panic. But in the end, I somehow pulled it off. I was actually the sole pastry student who attended the Olympics that year. It was Chef Sams (Sullivan University) and I who prepared every dessert for the USA houses.
Who is your biggest culinary inspiration and why?
I have three. My mother, great-aunt and grandmother — the three women impacting my life the most in teaching me the importance of serving others. Food is very intimate; it’s the center from which relationships are formed and strengthened. All three alike have shown, and continue to show, grace to everyone around them. This typically comes in the form of food — especially the sweet kind. This grace could come in the form of baking something for someone who might be going through a rough time or preparing a full dinner for a family that just lost a loved one. Food is all about sharing and connecting.
How did the opportunity to work as the executive pastry chef at The Omni come about?
Coincidentally, I had actually thought about getting out of the hospitality industry and going back to school, so I stalled in applying for the position. However, I’ve learned you can’t run from a passion, so after many nudges from fellow co-workers, I applied. Shortly after I sent in my resume, I received a message via LinkedIn about coming in to interview. My first meeting took me through the bare structure of The Omni hotel (hard hat and all), and I just fell in love. I was excited about being part of something from the ground up.
Aside from your current job, what would you say is your dream job?
Oh geez … hmm. Something that involves animals. I just love ’em. I’d probably just work on a farm!
Tell us about your favorite creation as a pastry chef.
Wow. That’s a difficult question. I think my favorite creation is anything that brings joy to someone or creates an experience. In the end, that’s really why we do what we do.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
My team. They’re absolutely amazing. They’ve stuck with me through it all. I’ve never opened a hotel before, so I had no idea what it entailed. Despite all the long hours and the nearing of tears, they show up every day and continue to amaze me. They’ve become my family.
Tell us about an organization or cause that is close to your heart and why.
The Center for Women and Families: Kentuckiana’s Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Center is near and dear to my heart. I’ve personally experienced happenings such as this in my life, so I want to empower and help others who have had similar experiences.
Your favorite saying is, “Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.” Tell us why this phrase is inspiring to you and where you first heard it.
This saying, said by Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson, reminds me of my father. He is, without a doubt, the hardest worker I know. My dad is a coal miner, and growing up, I watched him polish and lace up his steel-toed boots with the same determination every day. No matter what, my dad gave his all — and still continues to do so. This saying hits home because it reminds me to consistently better myself and to never become stagnant. It inspires me to be persistent in my pursuit of success and to always remain and remember to be humble. I also love the saying, “The higher we are placed, the more humbly we should walk.”
What is your best piece of advice?
Never compare yourself to others, especially those in your same profession. Always compare yourself with how well you did the day before, and seek to be better tomorrow.
Aside from faith, family and friends, name three things that you can’t live without.
I always have to have a spare pen to place in my bun … always. Coffee — lots and lots of coffee. Lastly, cat profiles on Instagram. I follow like 50 of them, and I look at them daily. Sad, I know, but they make me smile!
Thank you, Jaclyn, for indulging our sweet tooths in Louisville, and to Gretchen Bell for these beautiful photos!
To be inspired by other great Louisville women, check out our other FACES of Louisville here.