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L.A. baker Zoe Nathan talks about baking for charity and doughnuts

L.A. baker Zoe Nathan talks about baking for charity and doughnuts
Pastry chef and restaurateur Zoe Nathan. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

Zoe Nathan's life hasn't always revolved around baking and pastries. The Los Angeles-born pastry chef, who is co-owner with her husband, Josh Loeb, of establishments including Huckleberry Café and Bakery, Rustic Canyon, Sweet Rose Creamery Cassia, Esters Wine Shop & Bar, Tallula's and Milo and Olive, moved to New York early on to study photography and writing. But Nathan loved working with her hands and soon found herself working in kitchens. After stints at Lupa in New York City and Joe's in Venice, she honed her craft at Tartine Bakery & Café in San Francisco and bld in Los Angeles.

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Nathan is also the author of "Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes From Our Kitchen," which weaves many of her recipes with fun, quirky essays about her life as a baker.

Recently, I caught up with Nathan to chat about the upcoming bake sale she and many other local pastry chefs are doing as part of this year's Food Bowl, her current inspirations — and doughnuts.

Tell us about this bake sale.

Well, this is our first, so I'm a bit new. But I can tell you about the bake sales that we do in general and I'm hoping that this is like that. The whole baking and gathering idea is that I'm just so happy that they're happening, and I'm happy to support it. I love that we're using what we love to do to raise money for things and I think it's a really fun way to bring people together. I love the bake sale idea because it's such a low price point that makes it feel like everybody can be involved. That's cool. You know what I mean? Those big dinners — they feel very exclusive. Even those big food hall events, they're really expensive to get into, you know.

I just feel like it's a fundamental idea that every person has a seat at the table, right? And we could make some change. You know, it's like that Obama thing, where everybody gave what they could give: a dollar, two dollars. It's not like, hey, can you give $2,000? Which feels like a very L.A. thing.

What are you baking?

I'm thinking doughnuts. It's funny, we've done so many events in our lifetime and, well, slowly we're coming to realize that doughnuts are just the best thing.

Doughnuts make people so happy.


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People love doughnuts any time of day.

Any time of day. It's super fun and, you know, and we can glaze to order and make it super fun. So probably I'm thinking doughnuts.

You're doing the sale with some great people.

They're really taking the time to do something and I just feel really grateful for anybody who ever does this. There are so many people who have put on functions like this all over the city, and they take the time on top of all the hard work they're doing — I really love the baking community in L.A. They're just down and they're doing it for the love.

Do you have any current baking inspiration?

Yeah. I'm on like a serious health kick right now, but I'm also still obsessed with baking. And so for me, I loving baking with like all the alternative flours and sweeteners. I find all that stuff really inspirational. I love the idea of like making all these things that give you these really awesome flavors, like whole grains, and they're healthy but in a way that's super delicious.

Food Bowl

Held within the Night Market, in downtown L.A.’s Grand Park, the Los Angeles Times Food Bowl charity bake sale offers the opportunity to purchase pastries and confections created by some of the area’s top bakers and pastry chefs. Proceeds from the sale will benefit Food Bowl official charity partner Food Forward. Contributors include Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, Milo & Olive, Sweet Rose Creamery, Broken Spanish and Valerie Confections.

Cinnamon sugar doughnuts
Cinnamon sugar doughnuts (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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