First, allow me to reintroduce myself(queue Jay-Z background music), my name is Mo-Oh! M to the O...ok i'll stop, ha! My full name is, Monique, my friends and family call me Mo or Momo. I was born in Tucson, AZ and raised in the suburbs of Chandler and Gilbert. I was(and I still am) a tom-boy wild-child and a socialite. My mom always reminds me that my teachers would kindly report I, "Was a joy to have in class, but maybe too social". Meaning, I talked...a lot. Let's just say I spent more time making friends then studying to be a A+ student(my favorite English teacher is going to read this and cringe at all of my imperfections). However, I kept pretty decent grads while being a social butterfly! I also played soccer, was on the track team, became a cheerleader for 5ish years and dabbled in a little lacrosse. All while making amazing and incredible friends I still love and adore today.
Now, I am a 30 year old tom-boyish wild-child on a mission! I always knew I wanted to do my own thing. I never did well with corporate jobs or having a boss in general. I wanted to be creative without limits. I found desk job opportunities that said they would gladly let me "be free" to use my own creativity or the best lie they sell you, "be your own boss", but I was always let down or lost interest very quickly. It was clear that sitting and staring at a computer for 8-9 hours a day was not my cup of tea. So, you could say I am a bit of a rebel/rule breaker. I am not boasting about being a nonconformist by no means, however, that label has clearly stamped its self on my reputation. I'll take it! The rebels in this world are known because they decided to go off the beaten path instead of being basic. The king of Rebellious Chefs, Anthony Bourdain, may he rest in peace, influenced me to give the traditional culinary world the middle finger and find a career that would truly let me live my authentic-self through baking without any limitations.
So, how did it come down to cooking, baking and travel? They all didn't come at once, it was more of a never ending rising tide of new found love, an abundance of curiosity and skill sets. First, came the love. I found my king and husband Brandon Harris in 2010, we were engaged in 2013 and married in 2014, whew! He, besides my parents, has been my biggest supporter and mentor and I could never thank him enough for pushing me to be the badass that he sees in me. Brandon, owns and operates Premier Fitness Systems in North Scottsdale training, athletes from a variety of sports, and locals from all walks of life. He is not your typical juiced up, muscle bond, can't reach around to wipe you own butt kind of trainer. He and his business partner, Greg McClean, graduated with Kinesiology and Exercise Science majors. Meaning, when you walk in to their gym their methodology of fitness will truly transform you and prepare you to move just as well as you could as a child and most importantly feeling and being stronger. I may sound a tad bias, but, if you visit their site or gym you will quickly understand why so many high profile athletes or everyday people trust this team with their bodies.
Alright, Why does all of this matter? Well, when Brandon and I started dating, I learned that Greg had Celiac's Disease. Now, 8 years ago no one knew what that heck gluten was not to mention what it meant to have this inconvenient disease. All I could do was feel sorry for Greg because he couldn't just sit down at the table and eat what we prepared. That's when my creative juices started flowing! I researched, I asked him questions, and I cooked anything and everything gluten free. Trust me, there were a few bad ones but I think if you ask him there mostly good ones. Unfortunately, breakfast, lunch and dinner wasn't going to cut it, where's the dessert! Again, my mind went wild and that's when it hit me. As much as I like to cook, I LOVE to bake. By this time, we had learned to cook, gluten free and paleo meals. Then, along came gluten free pies, cookies, energy bars, the list goes on! Over a course of 2-3 years of cooking and baking for friends and families I knew for a fact I wanted to own a specialty bakery. This bakery was and is my rebellion taking flight. No one else in our area really made dietary restricted pastries. There was a need and I found it and ran with it. I woke up one morning feeling excited yet over whelmed by my "real" job and just said "screw it". I opened up my lap top, clicked over to Facebook, created a business page and the wrote the name: Bear and the Honey Specialty Bakery. By the way, this all happened in October 2013, therefore, it was prime time pie season. I honestly did not think I'd sell more than 10 pies and then 60 pies later, I knew this is what I needed to do. My mission was to develop meals and pastries that EVERYONE could enjoy. I wanted the average person and the gluten free/vegan to both enjoy one dish together. Creating unity between healthier ingredients and traditional practices was not going to be easy. But, I always love a challenge and this continuous battle is the most rewarding career I could ask for.
After, coming to terms that this was becoming my dream job I knew I needed to get more professional experience. Luckily, after working in the food industry for most of my twenties and some teen years, I asked chef friends was it realistic or worth going to culinary school. Majority of them said "hard pass". They explained, that if I wanted true kitchen experience then I needed to be in the field, experiencing the grit and the grind. So, I worked closely for a few weeks with pastry chefs, observing, doing prep work etc. For the friends that told me "yes, get some school under your belt" I found out that the local junior college had a Pastry Course. I immediately signed up for class and lucky me I was the only student! I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and I owe it all to my instructor. She allowed me to be independent in the kitchen as well as choose the techniques I wanted to master. I felt that well rounded and motivated with all of this new knowledge. Soon, Bear and the Honey was growing its menu and clientele. I became so busy I needed help and fast! I hired on my amazing friends Erin(the way we met was over food and we still make sure whenever we have down time we are surrounded by food haha). Sinclaire was a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen and I loved watching her take control. The kitchen lights were on at 4am and we worked tirelessly until 1pm, 2pm or 3pm depending on how large wholesale orders or private orders where. Having someone else in the kitchen with me was the best stress reliever and oh, yeah, the work got done a lot quicker. 5 years later I am still learning and creating new recipes, however, I found myself lost. We grew into a business that provides wholesale, baking classes, wedding/event dessert tables...I was worn out and I felt like I hit a wall. I wasn't super excited about what I was making anymore. I've noticed many great chefs hit a point in their lives and flip a table out of frustration because what they love doing has become unfulfilling. That was me for a while and I needed a way out, a way to reconnect with the passion I felt for this life I manifested. But, who, what, where, and how? I would never give up my dream, regardless of how hard it gets. The transitions I made or are making are cathartic and I plan to share my journey with you. So, I hope you will stick around enjoy the ride with me because, my up coming adventures, unique collaborations and new found love for cooking and baking begins right here, right now!
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