Wonder Woman Wednesday: Sandra Holl

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Sandra Håll

Sandra Holl is co-owner and executive chef of the beloved Chicago bakery Floriole. If you’ve been (ed. note: it’s one of our favorites!) you’ll know that it’s a true respite from the city hustle with lots of light, plenty of seating and beautifully crafted European pastries that often utilize seasonal produce. The bakery operates 24 hours a day to provide bread and pastries to their wholesale clients as well. Sandra does all of this while raising a 10-year-old daughter – no small feat. She talks to us about how to bake with your kids, why asking for help is more important than balance, and what it’s like to run Floriole.

Tell us your backstory…

I fled the Midwest after high school graduation with the intention of never returning. My college years were spent in Colorado, followed by a year in France teaching English to French high school students before taking a job in marketing in the Bay Area. My career in marketing abruptly ended when the dot com bubble burst and jobs evaporated. I followed my heart and returned to school to study the culinary arts and subsequently fell in love with the pastry side of the kitchen. I spent the next couple of years honing my craft at Tartine Bakery. After 10 years away from the Midwest, I was ready to come home and settle in Chicago.

In 2006 we (my huband and I) began selling pastries in a couple of Chicago’s farmers markets to test out our bakery idea. The response was very positive and by the end of the year we had begun looking for a retail location. In the four years it took to secure, build and open Floriole, we started a family and continued to solidify our business model, hone recipes and build a loyal clientele selling at farmers’ markets.

Floriole has won awards and accolades for outstanding breads and pastries.The business continues to grow and evolve and improve. In the future we hope to open other locations and write a cookbook.

What made you decide to open Floriole?

When my husband and I arrived in Chicago we quickly discovered that there was a gaping hole in the food industry. There were plenty of market driven, highly renowned restaurants but the same could not be said for bread and bakeries. Sure Chicago had bakeries, but I wanted to open a different kind of bakery that made amazing naturally leavened breads and pastries using seasonal ingredients from local farmers.

Sandra Holl

What is your favorite part about being a mom?

I am so thankful to have a daughter who makes me slow down and appreciate the little things in life. Without her, I imagine I would spend all my time working! What I love the most is the time we spend reading together in the evening. We spent last summer reading through Little House on the Prairie and other Laura Ingles Wilder books and she was fascinated with life during that time period.

What is one of your superhero mom moments?

I would tote my infant daughter just about everywhere. She spent her first year in a carrier or in the pack and play at the Farmer’s Market. There were times that I would unload and set up for market ALONE with her in tow! Looking back, I can’t even wrap my head around how I was able to that.

What was your biggest mom fail?

I’m the mom that has forgotten to pick up my kid from school. Nothing is more embarrassing than getting a call from the school office asking if you are coming for your kid.

 Any tips on balancing working and motherhood?

You can’t do it all. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is just about balance. Stop beating yourself up and ask for help, and stop overcommitting. Just say no.

You make amazing pastries – any fun, easy baking ideas we can do with our kids?

Cooking and baking are great learning and teaching opportunities. Stick to simple recipes with a few ingredients, make it part of a weekly routine (kids love repetition), and make something that your kid loves. Fruit salad, muffins and pudding are great places to start.

What advice would you give to a new mom?

Don’t spend time worrying about balance in the beginning. You will find a balance once you settle into the role of being a mother. Do ask for help because you can’t do it all on your own AND you shouldn’t have to. Be kind to yourself.