For native Memphian Kat Gordon, owning her own business was not something that had always been in her plans. Dabbling in Real Estate post-college, this budding entrepreneur followed an instinct and took a huge leap of faith to open Muddy’s Bake Shop, arguably Memphis’ most popular bakery. She describes this venture as “the most expensive, most elaborate character-building experience” of her life, and if the lines out the door are any indication, I’d also add “successful” to that description! We’re excited to share a little of her story today, and we hope you enjoy reading about what makes this colorful cool chick tick as much as we’ve enjoyed getting to know her.
Tell us the story of how Muddy’s came to be:
Muddy’s is actually the result of a religious crisis. I was baking on the side while pursuing a career as a realtor (which I was terrible at) and was having an escalating crisis of “I don’t like not being in 100% control of my life and what kind of God is this anyway who doesn’t do what I want?”
I knew I needed to take a risk and put myself be completely at His mercy and I chose between opening a bakery or skydiving. I opened a bakery with no professional qualifications,business experience, culinary training, or knowledge of what running a business would entail. I constantly have to remind myself that this is His business and I am just taking care of it. We’ll see where it goes!
Have you been surprised at the overwhelming response to your ground-breaking shop?
Yes! Surprised, flattered, thrilled, and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.
Cupcakes are now all the rage. Are you flattered by the attempted imitation?
Ha! Yes, actually. I like knowing that I was brave enough to leap into the Memphis market and be able to call out,“come on in, the water’s fine!” For someone who is normally pretty cautious, it’s a novel thrill.
Which one is your favorite confection, or is that like asking you to pick a favorite child?
<laughing> That’s awesome! I like everything, but my real favorite is blueberry pie. It isn’t a cupcake, but it’s my very favorite thing we make.
When do these new ideas and recipes come to you? Do you need a taste-tester or do you have a willing volunteer at home?
I get ideas from food trends, friends and family, co-workers, customers, everywhere!
We have LOTS of taste testers. Thomas is a regular guinea-pig, but staff and customers do a lot of the testing. We often use Facebook and twitter to broadcast our latest ‘science projects’ and invite folks to come taste what we’re experimenting with.
What inspires you?
Great writers, artists, and fellow business owners. I have a splendid network of fellow entrepreneurs. Even though we’re in different industries, we really get a lot of great ideas and inspiration from each other, and they constantly inspire me to build a better workplace and organization.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Trying to change the way people view professional servers. In our society, food servers aren’t very well respected as professionals, but many are incredible people! They simultaneously act as party planners, therapists, crowd-control, entertainment, baby-sitters,organizers, and incredible multi-taskers. I work with amazingly bright, talented, skilled folks who choose to be in a job that demands a lot from them physically, emotionally, and mentally, yet doesn’t pay what they could earn in another industry. The fact that these people make that choice because they love the product and love to serve others is absolutely mind-blowing, and I would love for our society to recognize and respect them more.
You’ve set up shop on Broad Ave. for the baking operation but can our readers look forward to another Muddy’s store-front location in the future?
We are definitely still tinkering with our plans for Broad. Construction on the kitchen should be finished in early fall for our “Underground” kitchen, but there’s a 700 sqare foot space that is a blank slate right now.
What are your hobbies?
I own a small business, so not a lot of hobbytime. I “garden” (cuss at weeds) and read whenever I can. Does eating count? Thomas and I do a lot to contribute to the economic health of our local eateries… <smile>
Any guilty pleasures?
Cheezits. I can eat a frightening amount in one sitting.
LUI’s at the Slider Inn.
“Porching,” just sitting on the porch and doing nothing. I don’t get to do this often, but when I do, it’s definitely a guilty thrill!
You’ve been known to change your hairstyle and color frequently and always look great! I love that you’re not afraid to take risks. Does this philosophy apply to other areas in your life?
I love this. I am often TERRIFIED to take risks. I have about twenty wigs, but had never put permanent dye on my hair until last year when I went cotton candy pink. Opening the bakery was quite out of character for me; I tend to be a typical “play it safe” eldest child. I’ve loosened up a bit, though, and my coworkers keep me from getting too set in my ways.
What is your favorite meal in Memphis?
Oh man. My dream meal would involve starting at Felicia Suzanne’s for a cocktail and deviled eggs, then enjoying an appetizer at Iris, then heading over to Hog & Hominy (the new Andrew-Michael offshoot) for prosciutto-fig pizza, and wrapping it up at Beauty Shop for a strawberry milkshake. Then if I’m totally honest, eating a slice of pie up in the bed for a midnight snack! I can throw down.
Do you have any secret talents?
I can cross one eye and make the other move around, just like my dad. It’s super-sexy. Psych.
What one word best describes you?
Fall fashion or other must-have(s):
My style could best be described as “crazy maiden aunt /six year old kid,” so I’m not sure I should be giving fashion advice. I will probably buy another pair of Doc Martens and at least one floral dress, despite trying to curb my pattern habit. And a pink beehive wig. My style staples are wigs and eyeliner.
What are three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God):
Butter, books, and Pentel fine-point RSVP pens. (This is not a paid endorsement, but if they want to show their appreciation with a lifetime supply of pens, they can send them to me at the bakery!)
Would you share with our readers one of your mouth-watering recipes, pretty please?
- For the cake: 1cup butter, room temp
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs, separated and room temp
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- For the citrus syrup:
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 2 Tbl fresh lemon juice
- zest of one lemon
- zest of two oranges
- 3/4 cup sugar
- dash salt
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar for two minutes. Add egg yolks, sour cream and extracts. Beat until light and fluffy.
- In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir this into butter mixture in parts.
- In a fresh bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold gently into batter.
- Pour batter into a greased bundt pan and let sit ten minutes before putting into oven. Bake 45-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
- While cake is baking, combine syrup ingredients and set aside.
- After removing cake from oven, let cake stand ten minutes. During this time, boil syrup ingredients 3-4 minuets.
- Turn cake out onto rimmed plate. Using a toothpick, poke a few holds around the cake so the syrup will settle in better.
- Gently pour hot syrup over the cake.
For more information about Muddy’s Bake Shop, visit their website by clicking here: www.muddysbakeshop.com.
Photographs of Kat and all of our lovely Memphis FACES are by the very talented Christen Morrison.
by Liza Graves