I met Carole Bloom 6 years ago at a 10:45am yoga class. I was a new teacher at that studio and accidentally taught for 75 minutes instead of 90. Carole let me know, and since then I’ve taught her at least twice a week. She prioritizes her health and active lifestyle. Despite her being a tiny woman, she’s a chocolatier and the author of best-selling dessert cookbooks. When she’s creating new recipes, the other yoga students and I sample the treats after class. Instead of offering constructive feedback, we fill our mouths and offer thumbs up in place of words.
You are a best-selling cookbook author. Is that what you always envisioned for yourself?
No, I started out as a dancer. By the time I finished college, my major was fine art. I was planning on going to graduate school either in art history or dance. But what I wound up doing was going to Europe with a friend. That was the first time I had been to Europe. We were there I think 3 or 4 months and my mind got kind of blown. I started seeing and eating all these amazing pastries and confections. This lightbulb went off over my head and I thought, “This is what I want to do.”
At that point did you ditch dance all together?
Not totally. I still stayed with it. I wanted to be a professional dancer but I began to realize that my body size and shape just weren’t “it” for dance. I was too short. Everyone always said, “You weigh 5 pounds too much.” (laughs). So when I was 26, I gave up dance. It was a real struggle because I kinda knew if I gave up dance I would never go back. But I was at a place where I just needed to do something else.
So when I came back from Europe I lived in Berkeley and started working at some of the gourmet restaurants that were popping up. I decided to go to culinary school. At that time there wasn’t much happening in the U.S. So I went to France, to La Varenne, and then to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
I came back to the U.S. but decided I wanted more European experience so I went to Venice Italy, and lived there with [my husband] Jerry for 6 months during a winter, which was an amazing experience because there are no tourists there in the winter. And I did an apprenticeship in a wonderful bakery there.
When that was up, we traveled around Europe for a while and then came back. I decided to get a little more European experience so I applied to work at a hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland, which is a 5 star hotel. Jerry was working on a job in upstate New York and we didn’t have email then so we actually wrote letters. We came home and ended up in San Diego county because his parents lived in Chula Vista and he had left his car there. We intended to go back to the Bay Area but that didn’t happen. So here we are.
Why did you start writing cookbooks instead of working as a pastry chef in a 5-star restaurant?
When we moved here in 1980 I started working with a catering group in La Jolla who had a storefront and wanted to turn the front into a bakery. That lasted 2 weeks and they dissolved. They didn’t know what they were doing. Then I went to work at Mille Fleurs in Rancho Santa Fe. I was making desserts for the restaurant and the owner wanted to open a bakery in an empty space in town. So I did all the planning for equipment and supplies and the menu. When it came time to put up the money, he declared bankruptcy. Once again, I was out of a job. I decided to step back and start my own little business making desserts for a few local cafes and restaurants.
I subscribed to many food mags and every month I would see the articles and say, “I could write that.” So I started writing for a local mag, then newspapers, then national mags, then I wrote 3 book proposals. I had an agent who was part-time and not that helpful. All this time I was also teaching classes at many cookware shops around SD and OC. A friend was the food editor of San Diego Home and Gardens and I went to a book launch lunch with her. I sat next to the publicist and told him about my book proposals, and I sent the proposals to him a few days later. They bought my first book, Truffles, Candies, & Confections, which I’m very proud to say has never been out of print since it was published in 1992. It was supposed to be a little paperback, but my editor encouraged them to bump it up to hardback and include photos.
My dessert business was growing and the writing/teaching was growing. I had to decide which way to go. I chose writing/teaching because I didn’t want to be doing the same thing all the time. I did keep making wedding and special occasion cakes. When I made a wedding cake for 400 people I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore!
From the first book, I’ve written 10 others and had many articles published in all the major food mags. Now I’ve come to a point where the field is so competitive I don’t fit in much anymore. There are always new people who are willing to work for pennies.
How did you decide not to have kids? (if it was a decision).
You know, it was never really a decision. When I was in school at UC Berkeley I worked part time at the public library in downtown Berkeley. And I would see these young mothers come in with their children and they would be, you know, unhappy and hollering at the kids and upset with them and smacking them. And I just thought, “I don’t think that’s something I want in my life.” It’s not that I don’t have maternal instincts. I’ve always had pets and plants. But I never felt that I could give a child the amount of space and attention that it would need. So it’s partly a selfish thing. But I think it’s also a really honest thing. I just never felt that desire. You know, ‘cuz they don’t come out with guarantee tags on their toes that they’re gonna take care of you later in life.
Probably if I had stayed in the Midwest I would’ve married my boyfriend who was in the 81st airborne. We probably would’ve had 3 kids and gotten divorced and been miserable. I thank my older brother for moving to Berkeley for his graduate school so that I could come out to visit him. And here we are.
You’re very physically active. What would be your hobbies if you were physically limited?
I’m a big reader so I would continue to read. I might take up jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles. I’d probably do a lot of research on anthropology and paleontology. But that would be very hard for me, to not be active physically. If I have to have this surgery [on my leg]- it’s arthroscopic but still it’s 4-6 weeks non-weight bearing. I’m thinking- what do I do? Go to the gym and use the arm machine?
Stalk Carole online at: www.carolebloom.com