We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Bazzetta and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Our customers want to connect and support real people, who are genuine in intention and practice and care for their community. While some people may say it is possible or even important to separate one’s private self from their business, we feel our success has been in embracing who we are personally and professionally. In this way, it has been very easy for our customers to get to know the real people behind Bonbon Bombardier, understand our personal ethic and values as well as our playfulness and sense of humor. As an owner-operated business, our customers are always connecting directly with us in person, over the phone, via e-mail, and through social media. Our business is living and breathing through us, and we get to know our customers like friends and find out about their families, hometowns, hobbies, goals, and values. We have customers young and old who are quite knowledgeable about our food system in the US and are concerned about the negative impact of big business and brands on small businesses, local economies, people, and the environment. So many people are making more educated choices on what they spend their money on and their individual impact on the food supply chain and the businesses that they in turn support. We have many vegan and non-vegan customers alike who not only hold themselves accountable for their consumption practices but also hold businesses accountable for their labor practices, sourcing and sustainability in production, and the like. Since we are pretty much an open book, our customers see how deeply passionate we are for our craft, our desire to enrich the local culture by keeping these artisan traditions alive and bring our community together over food, the care we put into sourcing local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients and packaging, and the concern we have for supporting other Colorado and regional producers and the local economy through our business. Our customers connect with our business because, they equally value the things we do and relate to us as humans, and this is likely a big, if not the core, reason our brand has been successful in Colorado. Also, I assume people really like our candy.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My path has not been easy, and I’ve taken a fair amount of calculated risks, always wanting to see and experience something new and to never stop learning and growing along the way. While baking and pastry have always been a passion of mine, I didn’t go to culinary school and ended up learning my craft on the job. In college, I pursued a major in International Studies at Saint Louis University, which allowed me to focus on cultural and historical studies, which of course includes the study of food cultures and aesthetics. Through an inter-university program between schools, I began my Japanese language studies at Washington University in St. Louis and eventually studied abroad at Waseda University my junior year, living with a host family in Tokyo. Having had such a great experience in Japan and realizing how far I had to go to gain real proficiency in the language, I began my graduate studies at Washington University after undergrad. During the second year of graduate school, I was back in Japan for professional language training at Stanford’s Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama and eventually returned to St. Louis briefly for a semester to finish my master’s in 2005 only to return to Japan. Sean, my high school sweetheart–now hubby and right-hand candymaker who also studied Japanese in undergrad–moved with me to Japan for work when I was in grad school. Both during and after my graduate studies, we were able to live there together for about 3 years. While we eventually made the hard choice to return to St. Louis due to serious family illness, we left Japan with a deep appreciation for craftsmanship and artisan traditions & professions as well as a love for hyper-local ingredients and seasonality & authenticity in food. Since we spent most of our free time exploring neighborhoods, visiting local specialty shops, and eating & drinking with our Japanese friends while planning our next meal with them, it’s no surprise that the experience of living in Japan influenced our palates and culinary styles as we made our way into the food industry. While I first began my career teaching in my field and working at universities, I definitely regretted not allowing myself at least some time to pursue a more creative path. Working with my hands always came naturally to me, and since I was a kid learning in my mom and grandma’s kitchens, I was drawn to the artistry in baking and pastry. Sweets are something so simple, yet they brings people so much joy. In my free time, I was always baking and researching new recipes and techniques to try out. After quite a few years pulling 60-70+ hour weeks, always working the weekends, and beginning to feel absolutely burnt out with little time for anything but work, an opportunity came up at an artisan chocolatier and confectionery in St. Louis, and Sean encouraged me to take the leap. This was a very scary step for me since I had invested so much in academia and was raised to make the most logical choices in my career, but I had reached a breaking point and needed to take some time, even it be brief, for myself. And the rest is history. More than a decade later, I look back and laugh a bit at my meandering path and the grief I gave myself for taking things “off course.” Embracing uncertainty has led to new opportunities and growth and has given me more confidence in my abilities. Without a doubt, my education and experience have guided me along the way. While artisan confectionery and chocolate work are quite demanding, I really enjoy my day-to-day, especially getting to work with my chef hubby in the kitchen and experimenting on new flavors and candies with him. I still get excited when coming across regional ingredients and producers that I have never seen before as well as all that there is to learn from confectionery traditions all over the world. My love for candymaking has only fueled my drive for travel. Moreover, by starting a small business in a new city, I have also been able to connect with the local community in a way that I could have never imagined. Getting to be part of the local small business community at a time that there is such great support and enthusiasm for artisanal food & goods and local small batch producers has been so incredibly rewarding.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d start the day with a cup of coffee from Loyal to enjoy with oliebollen, a yummy Dutch doughnut, from Boonzaaijer’s. We’d hit Ladyfingers Letterpress, Eclectic Co., Heartshake Studios, and a few other favorite shops and cafes. Then, we’d spend the day hiking in the Pike National Forest with lots of tasty snacks and an afternoon cup of coffee or tea with a slice of our panforte to enjoy in the woods. Then, return to Colorado Springs for evening drinks and food at the Bar at Almagre, where my hubby Sean Price is the chef.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
When we started our business in 2017 still being very new to Colorado Springs, we were eager to work with other like-minded, owner-operated artisan businesses and local small batch producers and makers that share a similar creative drive and business ethic as well as a commitment to driving forward local culture and to bettering the community they live. Before moving to Colorado in 2015, I was a big fan of the printmakers Ladyfingers Letterpress, and it’s probably no surprise that they were one of the first local small businesses that we wanted to meet and work with in town. Besides being incredibly welcoming to us and encouraging us so much along the way, having us for pop-ups and even carrying our product when we were so new to the scene here and barely knew anyone, Morgan & Arley, the designer + printmaker couple, have connected us with really good people in the community, have often taken time out of their busy schedules to give us expect packaging and design suggestions and other business advice, and have always looked out for us as business owners and humans. I am endlessly inspired by how they use their platform to promote womxn’s, LGBTQ+, POC and immigrant rights. When the local and national community needs them, they are right there to use their “power of the press” to produce work that helps mobilize social movements. We are so lucky to have Ladyfingers right here in Colorado Springs!
Facebook: Bonbon Bombardier
Nathan Toner Photography: personal photo, b&w photos Cassandra Parham: pictures of our confections–pate de fruits and salted almond toffee crack(er) crunch