PMA Member Spotlight on Jen Carson
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get to where you are now?
I grew up in Westwood, NJ, about 1 hour northeast of Princeton in an Italian-American family. Holidays were spent around the table, with lots of great food and drink. I went to college at Bucknell University, where I studied Elementary Education with a concentration in Mathematics. It was at Bucknell that I worked at my first food job: as a griddle cook, making hundreds of egg sandwiches called “Bison Breakfasts” at The Bison Café. I taught Kindergarten and first grade for a number of years, but always remembered how natural it felt to work in a commercial kitchen. By 2007, my kids had all entered school, and I REALLY missed working. I found a commercial kitchen, and started a small baking business, selling baked goods to a few caterers as well as to Small World Coffee. Shortly after that, I started selling our product at the Princeton Farmers’ Market and the West Windsor Farmers’ Market. Even then, the idea of a retail bakery was on my mind. I attended The French Culinary Institute and studied Restaurant Management and International Bread to prepare. I wrote the first version of LiLLiPiES Bakery’s business plan in 2010, and have been tweaking it ever since. We FINALLY opened on July 11, 2016.
My family has lived in Princeton for 12 years. It is our home. In opening LiLLiPiES Bakery, we wanted to provide a good location for our business, but also to give back to our community.
What is it that makes your business unique?
We are very particular about sourcing good ingredients, (local ingredients whenever we can), and using proper technique. Our sourdough is fermented for 24 hours, giving it a rich, full flavor and amazing texture. And our pies absolutely celebrate the bounty of the season. We bake fresh and from scratch throughout the day, so that everything we serve is fresh and delicious.
What menu item would your customers freak out about if it were removed?
Our LiLLiPiES are very popular, but our sourdough English muffins have developed quite a following as well. Many farmers’ market regulars stock up every week.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far?
SURVIVING OPENING–and finding an amazing staff of talented, creative, and kind people.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
My grandfather. He and his brothers owned and operated a butcher shop in Newark, NJ. His work ethic and pride in serving a great product have always been an inspiration to me.
How else are you involved in the community beyond LiLLiPiES?
We try and support local schools as much as possible. Also, thanks to some good friends, we are able to donate extra bread and sweets to Homefront and Cornerstone Community Kitchen as well.
What do you like to do on your days off?
DAYS OFF?!! We just opened, so there have not been any days off yet. But, when I do have a day off, I look forward to spending time with my kids, my husband, and my dog. I also look forward to playing music again with my band. (Luckily, many of my band-mates plan on dropping in for our “open-mic” afternoons, so I can listen to them play for now.)
Where’s your favorite place to grab a cup of coffee?
Small World Coffee! Best coffee, best people. We source their coffee for the bakery as well.
Any local places you like to visit that tourists wouldn’t know about?
In the Fall, I think there is no better thing to do than to pick apples at Terhune Orchards. It has been a tradition in our family since we moved to Princeton.