So how did Stan Lerner become Chef Stan and what the heck is www.reallybaked.com??? It goes something like this. As a child, I dreamed of being a great novelist, I liked the idea of becoming a business tycoon of some kind, and I was also content with just going into my father’s automotive business—hey when you’re a kid all options are on the table. And because my family was seriously into food, I started to think about this as a business by my early teens.
Did I work in the food business during the early years? A little, I was a busboy at UCLA. Did I become a business tycoon? Strangely, yes, and while it hampered my work in the kitchen, it did give me the resources to eat at some of the best restaurants in the world. Somewhere during this time of my life I owned a couple of restaurants and a very serious restaurant / nightclub. Novelist? Yep, did that too and I was pretty good at it, but that's another blog.
A few years have gone by now, since I returned to the kitchen. The comeback began at a little coffee spot called the Daily Brew, I had a cheap chef knife and a borrowed soup cooker; it turned out folks liked my soups. At the urging of an old high school friend, who had been working as a Chef for many years, I took over Chella’s, made some really great Mexican food, and then transformed this whacky spot into the Eastside Chippery. In the beginning it was just Melissa, the cashier / waitress, and myself…I added a burger to the menu as our daily special and Melissa wrote it on the chalkboard sign as “Special Chef Stan Burger”. Why she wrote it like this, I don’t know, it should have just said Chef’s Special, but as of that day, because of that one little sign, people started calling me Chef Stan. And that’s how I became Chef Stan.
As Chef Stan, I brought my cooking and baking to the Iron Gate Inn, The Pollard, Hygge Bakery, 7 Restaurant, and of course, the place that I now call home, Chef’s Table. But as part of my vision for where I am now, which happens to be way out in the countryside of Kansas, I wanted to do a whole bunch of Amish style, scratch baking, or more simply put, I only use a wooden spoon or my hands—no mixers. And I called this subset of real food, Really Baked.
If I may digress for a moment. Can you think of a better name for enhanced baked goods than Really Baked??? But NO, there is NO pot, weed, marijuana, THC, whatever you might be thinking in my baked goods. The only drugs I’m selling these days, are love and happiness in the ingestible form of delicious goodies!
Really Baked Dot Com, an idea whose time has come—well because while we might be making some of the best food in the world, we’re doing it in the Central Plains of Kansas, which is not exactly a few minute jaunt for most folks…I had started chatting with Kasey (Long story if you don’t already know it…) about how I could possibly reach as many people with my food as possible, especially after the big move from SoCal to the Heartland. The Internet was the obvious part, my cookie business was doing well in Los Angeles, and it just kind of came together, that a Chef Stan cookie was the most realistic food item that could be shipped—especially without any kind of modification from what it would taste like, right out of whatever kitchen I happen to be baking in. So Kasey helped me get a little website up and running, www.reallybaked.com but I decided to hold off on its launch until I was comfortably settled into life in Small Town, Main Street, U.S.A. which is now!
BTW, I really like living in Small Town U.S.A. it is such an awesome way of life and a really great place for practitioners of the arts—in my current incarnation, the culinary arts. There’s a peace here in the countryside, which allows for a very spiritual and contemplative existence, both of which are essential ingredients if one wishes to achieve at the highest levels of craft.
And with respect to the highest level of craft, I decided that www.reallybaked.com would launch with three Chef Stan cookie offerings, Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Cranberry, and Lemon Poppy Seed, all of which are generally considered to be the Bugatti Royal’s of the cookie world. And let me add, the wooden spoon is not the only distinction in how these cookies come to be created, each one, is my own unique take on what these classics should be. But rather than expound further on cooking making, I think most people, whether they love or hate me, know that when I say something is good, it’s good, I’d like to conclude by telling you, my friends, family, and fellow Americans about the “Why” of Really Baked Dot Com.
Like most things in life, Really Baked is part of an evolution, on many levels. In the beginning, as I mentioned previously, I thought of it as a way to give as many people as possible, regardless of where they lived, access to something I make. But in the process of settling into my home in the Heartland, (I should probably clarify, that my home is my restaurant and my restaurant is my home, literally.) I noticed that there were lots of good folks, with not such good eating habits. Unlike those of us who have been fortunate enough to grow up in the food culture, most people, just do not understand that you really are what you eat and that food that is good for you, can also be great to the taste. So the cooking became about more than, wow this taste delicious, it became a matter of changing people’s lives. Next, I came to realize that a lot of these nice folks don’t eat well, because eating well costs more. So, my assistant and myself decided that we would forgo any kind of salaries, in order to keep the cost of our food down. This helped, but wasn’t enough, so I searched out farmers that we could work with directly. This gave us the ability to offer the $3.00 lunch. That’s right, our Amish bread and butter, soup, salad and a drink for $3.00...But of course, this is still not enough, because we only have one location.
Bam! Here was the breakthrough moment; the idea came to me that we could take all of our profits from Really Baked Cookies and use this money to fund our affordable, Good Food That’s Good For You effort. And not as a nonprofit, or with grants, or contributions from rich patrons, because all of these things have a degree of impurity, all we need to do, to do some more good out there; is sell cookies. So when you go to www.reallybaked.com and buy cookies, or you tell your friends about what we’re doing, well, you’re helping us, help people. You’re helping us do a good thing. And most importantly, you’re helping us set an example for other businesses—it’s not just about the money…It’s about great products, it’s about people and it’s about caring for our fellow Americans. And we must care, because while we may not all have the same talents, ambition, goals, we should all have some individual idea of what success is for ourselves. And we should all have the realistic opportunity to achieve this.