Whenever anyone asks Wilton residents, “What is the town missing? What kind of business should open here?” inevitably the most popular answer is, “A bakery!”
Well, Wiltonians are about to get their wishes granted. The Pastry Hideaway will be officially opening on May 2 in Wilton Center at 126 Old Ridgefield Rd., in the rear, river-side of the building. The chef at the helm is Pamela Graham. Yes, that’s right, Graham–just like a graham cracker.
But customers at Graham’s bakery will definitely discover much more than just graham crackers.
“They’ll find macaroons, pain au chocolat, butter and almond croissants, bacon and cheddar croissants, and breakfast muffins–if they need a down and dirty breakfast, just something quick, the breakfast muffin will have all the fixins’–eggs, chives, there will be one with bacon and one without–all the things you’d put in a sandwich, but in a muffin. There will be lots of cookies–I’m a cookie monster!” she laughs, noting that there also will be coffee, cappuccino, and lattes to go along with everything.
Of course there will also be all sorts of pies, tarts, custom cakes and sculpted cakes, too. Plus Graham promises there will be savory items and even a more expanded menu for later in the day.
She notes that there also will be a fairly large gluten free selection, thanks to a dedicated section in the kitchen with equipment that will process only gluten free baked goods, and dedicated, nut-free equipment and prep table as well.
“I’m hoping the town of Wilton will help me decide what works, what doesn’t, help me fine tune, and help the employees find a groove. Customer service is a critical thing. When people walk in I want them to feel at home and have a good time.”
A Long Path Here
Graham is so excited to finally open her much-awaited eatery. “We looked all over, and just loved Wilton. There’s something about New England, I love classic,” she says. After having lived all over the world–including Ohio, Shelton, South Africa, Wisconsin and New York, as well as having spent some time in the army (where she met her Trinidadian husband of 25 years)–she’s looking forward to building her bakery business in classic Wilton.
Baking is actually a shift for Graham, who left a career in corporate licensing to start to study baking several years ago–and when she says “study,” she means she immersed herself. In addition to graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and completed two programs at the French Pastry School in Chicago. She also finished an advanced program in cakes, studying with the chef who made one of the wedding cakes for Prince Charles and Princess Diana, as well as competed at cake shows with another leading chef. Topping it all off, she most recently worked for acclaimed chef Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bakery in Rockefeller Center.
Making her dream come true took a lot of dedication and hard work–even commuting five hours every day from Wisconsin when she was enrolled in the pastry program in Chicago, “If you want something you have to sacrifice to get it,” she says.
Sitting in her own kitchen in her starched white chef apron and hat, Graham recalls what it meant to be able to work with such celebrated, skilled–and demanding–experts.
“The chefs I worked with really were top tier, and they taught me everything. I feel very fortunate. I feel my schools prepared me for greatness. The way they insisted on quality. They said if you have a high standard for what you produce, you’re clean–even your uniform. If you get even a little chocolate spill–‘Get another apron!’ It’s how you feel about what you’re doing, and I love it!”
She laughs and says, “I loved the program so much, I went through it twice, I did a cake intensive!”
Graham will take everything she’s learned, as well as some of the delicious favorite recipes she gathered along the way, to keep building her repertoire for her Wilton location. She’s looking forward to developing and inventing new things.
“But even with that I can still always learn. That’s one of the exciting things about what I do. I can’t say, ‘Oh, I reached my peak.’ There’s always something more, someone is always creating something new.”
That same kind of persistence and determination proved important after she signed her lease last November. Graham had intended to open much earlier than May, but some construction issues with the space hampered that plan.
That hasn’t stopped friendly faces from stopping in to see her progress. “I love Wiltonians! They come and knock on the door and the window, and say, ‘Good luck!’ and ‘Welcome!’”
She’s been warmly welcomed to the neighborhood by the other building tenants too, like Dr. Mary Winston, of the Chiropractic Health Center next door, and Dr. Monica Teredesai, the orthodontist upstairs at Smile Art Orthodontics, who also owns the building.
Right at Home
Graham is grateful to have found a home where she’ll be able to pursue her passion everyday, and to bring people joy. “I love to bake, I love to eat, I love really good food. But I also love to see people be happy when they enjoy something. I get such a kick out of watching when they taste something and you see that smile.”
The bakery is also a bit of a family affair–her eldest son, Tarik, 23, is helping her get everything up and running, while her youngest is in college. That Tarik is following in her footsteps is sweet.
“I ask him, ‘Do you really want to hang around your mom and do this?’ But I love it that he’s here. And he does love it.”
Another thing Graham is excited about was founding out Wilton residents mobilize every year to support Stop Hunger Now, a charity she has supported for several years, organizing meal packaging efforts just like the one Wi-ACT does each October.
“I have to be a part of that, with my boys. I love that, that is my event! What better thing for a chef to do–feeding people. That makes me feel even better about Wilton! That is so fantastic.”
It may be another reason that Graham says she and her husband are open to the possibility of someday living here, moving from nearby New York State. Now that she’s satisfying Wilton’s primary request by opening her bakery, Graham might have to live even closer to her business to satisfy an ever-growing customer demand. That, she says, would be great.
“I absolutely love what I do! It’s my bliss.”