David Andrews, owner of one of Nashville’s newest high-end bakeries, is a Nashville boy, I found out when we chatted this fall. His love of cooking inspired him to seek his passion in one of the world’s culinary capitals, New York City. There he studied Pastry Arts at ICE. “The good one,” he was quick to point out—The Institute of Culinary Education. There he learned the skills that would take him to some of New York’s best kitchens, where he honed the craft that he has brought home to Nashville.
If you haven’t had a chance to eat at D’Andrews, his bakery, or to at least grab a pastry to go, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. With fall upon us, and in the month of the “trick or treat,” D’Andrews is truly an invitation to treat yourself.
So you are a local. What took you out of Nashville?
My family owned a clothing store in Belle Meade, and that closed. I needed something to do, and I always loved cooking and desserts, so I took that as an opportunity to go to New York and go to culinary school!
While you were in New York, did you work in any well-known bakeries?
The dirty little secret is I've never worked in a bakery before! This is my first bakery!
So, out of culinary school, I worked at Gotham Bar & Grill Martin, which is a really prestigious restaurant in Greenwich Village. And then, after that, I did a couple of forgettable things, as we all do. Then I became the pastry chef at the Kimberly Hotel, which is on 50th between Third and Madison. Within six months, I was elevated, and I was named the executive chef of the hotel, which was an amazing, cool, fantastic job. It's really a fun environment to work in, but you definitely have to look the other way a lot, just let it go over your head, which I'm good at. You had to put your ego aside.
So what point did you meet your husband, Matt?
Matt and I met New Year's Day 2006... Within three years of moving to New York, I found Matt and it's pretty amazing. We met at Hero, which was a nightclub in the Meatpacking District. We just ... on the dance floor, we just kind of saw each other. He said, "Hi." I said, "Hi." Then he bought me a drink. And here we are, 12 years later!
At what point did the idea that you would start your own business come into play?
Before I left for New York, that was the end goal, to open my own place. So I was working on it, and it took me 12 years to get to the point where I gathered all my thoughts, and I knew what I wanted to do and I knew that I was gonna be successful. I just wanted to put myself in a position to succeed. And I think my education in New York did that, and I didn't want to pull the trigger too fast. It just had to feel right. And it took that long.
How did you guys decide on Nashville?
Well, we'd been coming back here, and we actually, in 2015, got married in Nashville. So he was very familiar with the city. And just went to him one day and said, "Sweetie..."
13 years in New York is a long time. New York definitely has an expiration, usually around 10 years for people. I stuck it out those extra three years, and started to get the shakes... It was just time to come home. And I think, ultimately, Matt saw that and felt that way and he was very grateful that we came home. I always say the best decision I ever made was to move to New York. And the second best decision I've made was to move home.
How did you find your niche here in the Nashville market?
Looking back at Nashville from New York, I just saw a lot of cupcakes, a lot of donuts, a lot of cookies. And, in New York, right now, there's a renaissance of bakeries by people who are educated in the restaurant world. So they're more patisseries with an eye toward three- and four-start restaurant quality. And that's what I envisioned for my bakery in Nashville.
It was something that I think is unique, and I think appreciated. Everything is fresh here. We do everything here. And I think that shows in what we do every day. It was an opportunity: I told my friends that if I don't do this, somebody else is going to come around and do it. So I know I'm the best, I wanted to be first.
Have you found a receptive market here for your concept?
Certainly, in the beginning, there was the customer who would come in here and know what this is. Then there were customers who came in just looking for cupcakes, or donuts. So customers got used to us and saw what we were doing, and they were like, "Wow, that's an amazing donut you have" or "Wow, that's an amazing croissant you have..." People saw the quality, people saw the value.
Has your as your catering or your event baking business taken off?
Yes. We strategically looked for downtown, because I knew that, especially the first year when getting established, that I needed the catering to keep the lights on. And it has! We love our catering.
I'm very grateful for the people who support us. They seem to have taken a vested interest in us. They love to tell their friends, "I got this at D'Andrews." So that elevates them because their friends are like, "Well, why aren't we getting it from D'Andrews? Why are we stuck with day-old croissants?"
We literally bake this stuff each morning, Every catering order is baked the morning it goes out. People appreciate that. And they thank me just as much as I thank them.
You also have a pretty robust breakfast and lunch menu and breakfast menu. How does that fit into the model of a bakery?
Well, it comes from wanting to make money! Other bakeries that are like this tell me that you have to have a strong savory program to support the bakery. You can open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and sell cookies and donuts, you'll be okay. But if you want to pay the rent, and you want to be successful, you have to be open all day long. And you're not going to be selling croissants at two o'clock in the afternoon.
So you've gotta have a strong savory ... sandwich, salads, we even do pizza now. We take the same foccacia dough, which is our house bread dough, and we can make it in loaves, we can make it a bun for a breakfast sandwich, or we can put in a pan for pizza. Whatever we feel like. Today, we felt like bacon and chicken, and so we made a bacon and chicken pizza, and it's almost sold out. So that's pretty cool that you can have all these different applications for the same dough.
I've noticed that there are some staples on the menu that have been here every time I've been here. And then there are some things that change, and the pizza is an example of that. How did you settle on your staple menu?
It's basically what I knew. And I think that's the biggest advice I would give anybody opening a restaurant or bakery: first year, cook what you know... Don't go looking at these fancy cookbooks and trying to emulate them because it's not gonna work! You got to be true to yourself. Once you have these basics, you can expand and try something. These were the staples that I've grown and done over the last 13 years and tested them very and am comfortable presenting. So that's why went there first.
If somebody wants to have a cake made, what's that process like if someone wants a custom cake?
Just call me, and give me 48 hours. We'll go over what you want. People ask me, "What cakes do you make?" And I say it's up to your imagination! Obviously, most popular are like a vanilla cake with chocolate mousse or a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream. We do red velvet, and carrot cake. This weekend, I made a cake with passion fruit curd and raspberry jam, and it was amazing!
I love to experiment and then design. We're pretty open, though we don't do fondant. You're not going to be seeing cakes looking like realistic Titans football helmets. That's not who we are. I can tell you we're gonna make the best tasting cake in Nashville. That I 100% know. And we're just gonna make it beautiful. We'll have elements of whimsy in it. You can tell us, and we can try to figure out something to make together.
What has your interaction with the LGBT community in Nashville been like as a business owner?
We're part of the LGBT Chamber, and they have been fantastic. That was sort of my entree into a lot of the law firms and a lot of the businesses. Everybody from Ron to Joe at the Chamber has been amazing. And I'm very grateful for the support.
We participated in Dining Out for Life, and we did TASTE last year. Of course, we are doing TASTE again this year. Maybe I'll even go into dessert and savory, depending... Ask me in November. That was it was a fun event, but I'm peeved that I lost, so we're going for gold this year!
For more information, or to check out the menu, visit dandrewsbakery.com!
Photos by Mayter Scott, courtesy of D’Andrews Bakery.