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(Image: Courtesy of Emily Kim / The Pastry Project)

The Pastry Project: Sweet treats with an extra sweet mission

There's just something about sprinkles.

"They're fun, they're cute and they just make you happy," Emily Kim said, her smile evident even underneath her mask.

There's no shortage of them in this sparkling new kitchen in Pioneer Square, though Kim and Heather Hodge don't necessarily share the same opinion of the rainbow-colored sugar specks.

"We both bring the best part of each other into this," said Hodge, laughing. "We have fought about sprinkles before, but I always defer to the sprinkles because I defer to her taste."

As it turns out, sprinkles are one of the few things the dynamic duo disagrees on. Hodge and Kim are the co-founders of The Pastry Project, "a space that provides free baking and pastry training to individuals with barriers to opportunity in the industry."

Kim and Hodge first met years ago, working at Molly Moon's — Kim was the director of social impact, and Hodge the head chef. That's where the idea for The Pastry Project was born.

"Molly Moon's would try to work with nonprofits to offer jobs with great benefits and wages to people that needed opportunity," said Kim. "In doing that, we found it was easier to place somebody in the front of the house scooping ice cream than it was in the back of the house in a busy kitchen if they didn't have the experience for it."

Those barriers exist because kitchen jobs, particularly in pastry, require training. For most, that means going to culinary school, which is expensive, or taking an apprenticeship, likely working for next to nothing.

"We saw there was a disconnect and a barrier in terms of being able to offer those types of (baking and pastry) positions to the people we really wanted to offer them too," said Kim. "We talked about it, and there wasn't really a program that did that kind of training for free, so we decided to create it ourselves."

The Pastry Project provides a free 14-week training program in baking and pastry, along with job placement assistance. The applicants are referred to Hodge and Kim by local nonprofit partners. The program's funding comes from public baking workshops (done virtually for now), along with goody box memberships and pastry kit subscriptions, though Kim and Hodge have some big plans for their new space.

"We're making dutch doors for our space, so we'll be able to open and have a window to sell our products out of, which is really exciting," said Kim.

Yes, soon, folks will be able to stop by and pick up a fresh-baked treat. One favorite, the party cookies, made with malted milk powder, their chocolate and, naturally, a few rainbow sprinkles — they are unreal good, I can attest. But, maybe it's the mission behind The Pastry Project that makes them extra sweet.

"To just be able to have someone have a chance at this dream of building a career in the baking and pastry industry that may not have otherwise happened," said Hodge. "That's really the dream. That we can help those people follow their own dreams and help as many people as possible."