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Sanchez, who's a vegetarian, presses the sandwiches. "The smell drives me crazy," she says. "It's agonizing; it's torturous. You start living vicariously through everyone else."
Brisket aside, her mother was a wonderful cook, DeWitt says, recollecting chicken soup with matzo balls and her grandmother's kreplach. Her mother was also "a health-food freak" who wouldn't allow store-bought cookies in the house, DeWitt says, so she started making cookies at an early age. She remembers baking a batch of mandelbrot from a recipe in Sara Kasdan's Love and Knishes. "People think they're hard because you have to knead the dough, form loaves and bake them," she says. "Everyone said, 'You're such a great baker.' I thought, 'Oh, I'm such a great baker.' Then there's nothing you're afraid to try because a great baker can do anything...I might have had an easier life if my mother told me I was good at something else." She laughs, shakes her head. "But I love that this is my life now."
DeWitt continued to bake in college. Everyone living in her complex got fresh bread during finals, and the process paper she was assigned for an expository writing class was about making bread. "I got an A," she recalls.
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But she had no thought of cooking professionally and instead went into her parents' real estate business. "Kitchens were always my favorite part of a house," DeWitt observes. She got married, then divorced, and started thinking about making a living at what she loved. Her alimony money put her through Johnson & Wales University, where she earned a degree in pastry and fine baking. She interned at Turnberry Isle, a famed resort, where "I had the pastry chef's full attention," she says. "We played so much in that kitchen."
She met Sanchez at a lesbian happy hour, and eventually invited her over for dinner; it began with a polenta dish that featured three cheeses and garlicky rapini. "The dessert was spectacular," DeWitt says. "Poached pears dredged in chocolate with crème anglaise." The plates were beautifully decorated, and there were also pear frangipane tartlets and a cognac ice cream. "I wanted to impress her," she remembers. She smiles across at Sanchez. "She does not like pears. I had no idea."
After her internship ended, Dewitt spent almost a year selling cakes from her home. Then two years ago, the couple decided to move to Boulder, where DeWitt's sister lives, and open a pastry shop. "It seems so glamorous when you watch the chefs on TV, but it's very hard work," DeWitt says. "I'm glad I didn't know at the beginning how hard."
But the restaurant has a loyal and growing clientele; the pithivier and Basque cake have returned to become its biggest sellers; DeWitt fantasizes continually about new dishes she wants to try, and overall, she's pleased with her decision. "Making marzipan flowers is more fun than selling a house," she says. "People don't trust you if you're a realtor, no matter how ethical you are. Cakes are very intimate. Your art goes into their bodies and becomes a part of them. Especially, I love wedding cakes. They represent the beginning of a couple's whole life together. I love feeding people. When they see my cake and say, 'Oh, it's too beautiful to cut,' I love that.
"Then I reach for the knife."