A Botanical Baker’s Dozen
By Hailey Bethke | Photography courtesy of Eat Your Flowers
Let’s be honest: we all love flowers. Whether they’re in the form of a celebratory bouquet or a hike through lush wildflower fields, the presence of petals makes it impossible not to feel a little more cheerful. Culinary connoisseur Loria Stern has developed a fresh perspective on what to do with her blooms. Her company name, Eat Your Flowers, not-so-subtly hints at her forward-thinking take on harvesting nature’s bounty to use in the kitchen rather than put on display.
At Eat Your Flowers, edible pressed flowers adorn mouth-watering shortbread cookies, tarts, pies, and cakes, utilizing the natural medicinal benefits of plants to create baked goods that make a statement. These botanical beauties have taken the internet by storm, raising a community of more than 230,000 on Instagram and gracing the pages of major luxury publications. Most recently, Stern ventured onto ABC’s Shark Tank, where she landed a deal with investor Barbara Corcoran.
At her core, Stern describes herself as a nature lover, optimist, and artistic athlete. “I know, that last one seems like a random combination,” she jokes. “I grew up in Ojai, California, where I spent a lot of time outside learning about the value of the natural world. My mom was artistic, and my dad was athletic, so they raised me to be a bit of both.” A childhood of art classes and playing tennis at a Division 1 college meant it wasn’t until years later that Stern ventured into the culinary industry. “I immediately fell in love with feeding people and working with my hands,” she shares. “I couldn’t afford to go to culinary school, so I convinced my favorite food establishments to take a chance on me by giving me a job in the kitchen instead.”
After landing a highly coveted pastry chef position at a renowned hotel, Stern enrolled in a higher-education course in Santa Barbara and learned about foraging edible and medicinal plants. “Many of these plants were used by the earliest inhabitants of our land. It broadened my creative inspiration to incorporate plants with the pastry techniques I was learning,” she explains. After she casually posted some of these kitchen experiments on Instagram, her flower-pressed shortbread cookies quickly became a viral sensation. Dozens of purchase inquiries led to her opening an online storefront to fulfill orders—which haven’t stopped rolling in since. Now supported by a small team of powerhouse bakers, Stern operates out of a kitchen in East Los Angeles and ships her products nationwide. “Starting a bakery business was never my goal, but looking back, it’s been such an incredible and miraculous journey, filled with both luck and preparation,” she emphasizes.
Starting my bakery business was never my goal, but looking back, it’s been such an incredible and miraculous journey, filled with both luck and preparation.
During her time as a private chef, Stern recognized the staggering amounts of food waste generated by the restaurant and catering industries. She promised herself that she would reduce waste and conserve water whenever possible, making sustainability a cornerstone of her business. Stern honors this commitment by harvesting the flowers from her organic garden in Montecito, California, or sourcing them from local growers. “I tend to favor volunteer flowers and plants: those that I don’t intentionally plant but just sprout up because a seed landed in my yard and yielded gorgeous blooms,” she comments. “Some of my current favorites are sunflowers, California poppies, dandelions, and milkweed.” These favored flowers are often found adorning her bakes alongside a variety of other colorful blossoms.
My goal with the book is to inspire home cooks to become more creative and provide them with new staple items that are always on rotation in their kitchen.
Stern’s unique take on merging botanicals and baking inspired her to write her premiere cookbook, Eat Your Flowers, coming April 25, 2023. “This project has been five years in the making, and I’m so thrilled with how it turned out,” she expresses. “My goal with the book is to inspire home cooks to become more creative and provide them with new staple items that are always on rotation in their kitchen.” Eat Your Flowers features breakfast bakes, soups, salads, staple dips and dressings, delicious main courses, and Stern’s signature desserts. The book also contains guides on edible flowers, natural pigments, and flavor profiles to introduce foraging and botanicals for the modern chef.
— V —
Read this story online at VIEmagazine.com for two of Stern’s go-to recipes from the pages of her debut cookbook: her best-selling flower-pressed shortbread cookies and floral spring rolls with miso-almond dipping sauce!