might say he started out in life as a birthday present. He was born
on his brother Tom’s ninth birthday. Not surprisingly Tom
has been a strong influence and inspiration in his life. Meet Chris
Froese, a baker who has elevated his work to an art form.
Chris was the youngest of six children. His father was an engineer,
his mother worked in an office and while not in the arts themselves,
they were supportive of all creative endeavors. As a child Chris
drew and painted all the time, wasn’t sure what he wanted
to do in life except that it had to be creative. “We’re
all born with some kind of passion,” Chris explains.
Chris’ grandmother was responsible for stirring his enthusiasm
for cooking. “She was always baking,” he beams. “She
enjoyed bringing people together, creating a warm, inviting atmosphere
and cooking for them,” he pauses savoring her memory. “She
wasn’t the life of the party, she took pleasure from her guests’
enjoyment of the food. Her ability to put smiles on their faces
just by cooking amazed me.”
Young Chris became fascinated with baking. He spent hours at the
library reading, “Baking is chemistry, it’s scientific
Chris has no professional training; he’s self-taught. He went
off to San Diego after school and worked as a waiter, eventually
finding his way into the kitchen where his natural gift was revealed.
He worked in a variety of hotels and restaurants. After four years
he made a discovery, “I asked myself what’s important
and the answer was family.” So he headed back east.
He wound up in Boston working for a ten-restaurant chain. There
were no kitchen positions open so he managed their catering operation.
“The mass production element of large scale catering was good
training,” he tells me. He even considered remaining in the
corporate management field, but his inner creative passion, his
need to grow creatively took precedence.
While Chris was in Boston, brother Tom moved to Columbia County
to paint. Chris came for a visit, fell in love with the place and
stayed. He noticed a shortage of great desserts for sale here so
he filled a niche. “Random Harvest started selling my pies
and before long I was baking eighty to ninety pies a week. The baked
goods began taking over the kitchen and the rest of the house. I
realized I couldn’t continue this in my brother’s home.”
They began looking in Hudson and found a building on Warren Street.
It was love at first sight and a lot of hard work. Two years ago
last October Chris and Tom opened Brandow’s & Company.
true inspiration for Brandow’s was to get him out of my house,”
Tom jokes in passing.
“A day doesn’t pass when I’m not grateful to have
a place and the freedom to create. My brother has given me that,”
Chris quietly admits.
Now if you are one of the few who haven’t discovered the pastries
Chris creates; they are as good as it gets, a sight to behold, pure
delight to taste. Chris continues researching, exploring and experimenting,
“When you feel you know everything about your art, then you’ve
stopped learning, stopped growing.”
“How do you stay so trim?”
“Moderation,” he answers. “Balance is important
in life. Don’t withhold enjoyment worrying about what comes
next, but have concern for moderation.” Chris smiles then
tells me his motto, “Life is short. Eat dessert first.”
The impact of his grandmother’s influence remains an indelible
mark. “I create things people will be excited about.”
He talks about the need for consistency and for experimentation,
the need for opening possibilities and an openness of the imagination.
Chris has a dream to do something for kids, sort of a Willie Wonka
place where kids learn the process of cooking and creating. He also
has an idea for a cookbook that goes beyond just baking. A book
of values and recipes, the world of pastry both practical and inspirational,
“So the reader will be moved to create pastry, too.”
Chris talks about timing. “People walk in and need something
to fill their soul and I’ve just created what they need. Food
has an impact on the senses; it can take people back to some special
place in their life. It’s more than just delicious.”
Chris’s mother always loved one dessert in particular, his
lemon tart, “She couldn’t believe how good it was,”
he smiles. When she became seriously ill and lapsed into a coma,
Chris brought a lemon tart to the hospital every day. Everyone told
him it was useless, but Chris persisted, he waited and hoped. Every
day he baked a fresh lemon tart and took it to the hospital, standing
vigil at his mother’s bedside. One day she opened her eyes.
Chris fed her a bit of the lemon tart. She smiled and ate it, then
closed her eyes. A few days later she died, never regaining consciousness.
The need to bring a smile to someone’s face is a divine family
tradition that Chris continues daily.
We’ll talk next time From The Road.