MISSOULA – Many of the trends and hobbies that occupied people during pandemic lockdowns and quarantines have already fizzled out.
For a pastry chef from Missoula who rediscovered his passion for baking during the pandemic, his COVID success story has only grown over time.
Renting the kitchen of what was once Lisa’s Pasty Pantry, Jeremy Sher places an order for a Black Forest Yule Log. By carefully spreading the ganache on the cake, it is evident that Sher is no stranger to cooking, but to say that he is a businessman always feels new.
“A year ago, I had no intention or thought of running a business,” explained the pastry chef.
Like most, pandemic isolation sent Sher on a hunt for something, really anything to pass the time.
“I just started cooking,” Sher said.
A cake would turn into two, two into three, and with each baking, a neighbor or friend had a personalized cake waiting at their front door.
“At one point people were like, ‘Okay, no more, we’ve had enough of the cake,’ ” Sher joked.
But with each beat of the dough, Sher felt a little better, so the baking continued.
“I started uploading pictures and said, ‘Who needs this cake? Who needs this? Who feels excluded, who feels stressed? “
Without any plans, Sher’s job of spreading joy through baking exploded when customers came calling, ordering cakes for neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends. Sher called it #CakeItForward, a movement to share positivity through the cake. The trend eventually turned into a business born out of a pandemic called Missoula cakes.
“I realized I was buying, you know, industrial size packaging of everything,” Sher said. “50 pounds of flour, 100 boxes of cake, 20 pounds of butter at a time and it was getting really expensive.”
A business plan fell from the sky as easily as powdered sugar on his dessert, but 2021 has been anything but cake for this pastry chef.
“I had 25 to 30 orders on the books before Christmas and then I tested positive for COVID,” Sher said.
Not to mention that the ingredients he buys locally have been affected by the shortage of supply. He also had an operation somewhere in there.
Even pandemic success stories have their sour moments.
“I do it all,” Sher said, “I shop, I clean, I deliver and, of course, I do everything.”
Despite the challenges of entrepreneurship, a year later, Sher is doing better than ever, both in his business and in his personal life.
He thinks it’s the reason for his deliveries that keeps the cakes coming and the business continues to operate.
“This notion of taking care of others is at the heart of what I do. “
A year ago, this master pastry chef might not have considered Missoula a home.
“Before the pandemic, I was considering leaving Missoula because I couldn’t find the opportunities I needed.”
Today he can’t imagine leaving, and there’s a cake to thank for it.
“It’s a really strange blessing that the whole pandemic kind of sent me.”