Joe Parker of JP’s Pastry is a man of many talents including baking, dentistry, multi-tasking, and inhuman super-speed. Every time I see him he is running between plans with several different projects on his plate, all with a smile and time to chat. Originally from Benson, NC, JP went to UNC for his graduate and undergraduate degrees for dentistry; he now works as a dentist at his father’s practice along with running his own business out of the beautiful certified kitchen in his house.
JP had never baked anything until he graduated from UNC in the fall of 2008; the first thing he tried was a box cake mix and it was terrible—he threw it out knowing that he could do better. And so it began. What really makes JP love baking is the science behind it; he enjoyed biochemistry in school and quickly saw its importance in baking. Every recipe he uses is first deconstructed in order to discover how it can be dairy-free, paleo, or whatever dietary restriction needs to be met. This mindset is necessary for gluten-free baking, a transition JP decided to take in 2012 after having a severe allergic reaction to wheat. Flours without gluten are much more temperamental than wheat flour–in order to get the correct texture and flavor they have to be mixed carefully. JP has seventeen different flours in his pantry that are used regularly in their desserts. He is a texture person, carefully constructing everything he bakes–the result being pastries that you wouldn’t be able to tell are gluten-free unless someone told you. He went to the Culinary Arts Program at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte and has since taken the San Francisco Baking Institute’s Gluten-Free Baking Class several times, worked with Sugar Arts School, Swank Cake Design, and many other pastry and dessert classes. JP’s Pastry is made up of three people total: JP, Iz, and Katie. Together they have created an amazing business that is continually growing.
The trick, he says, is relying on seasonal changes. They focus on holidays to theme their desserts as well as traditional seasonal sweets to which they can add their own twist. It takes a willingness to try and possibly fail, something that can easily happen with gluten-free baking. They recently discovered a sugar cookie recipe when Katie was attempting a new recipe for their mini pound cakes. They came out of the oven with entirely the wrong structure and texture but they tasted delicious, so JP and Katie frosted them and had a delicious new product!
In all of JP’s free time he also hosts a local show called Triangle Food Addicts where they interview local restaurants. The most recent episode is about Irregardless Café. If you want to learn about gluten-free baking JP teaches classes out of his house, at Peaceful River Farm, and at Southern Season. On March 21, JP will be at Southern Season for the whole day to showcase his products. You can find their pastries at Third Place, Café De Los Muertos, Neomonde, Sassool, Groovy Duck Bakery, and Southern Season. With every bite of one of JP’s desserts you can taste the hard work, dedication, and cheer that went into its creation; here is where your sweet-tooth can be satisfied with very little guilt.