Get to Know Chef Mimi from Voila Pastry
If you haven’t been to Voila Pastry & Cafe yet, you should remedy that soon.
They’ve got everything from perfectly baked chocolate croissants to an outstanding caramel walnut tart, and it’s all just a three minute drive from The Parker in Alexandria (this could get dangerous!).
We recently had the opportunity to speak to the head chef, “Chef Mimi,” and she graciously answered our questions about everything from her inspiration to her roots. Read on for the sweet scoop on Voila.
How long have you lived in Alexandria? Where are you from originally?
I don’t live in Alexandria, but most of my family & friends [do]. I’m originally from Ethiopia.
You were exposed to the art of pastry at a young age–have you always wanted to start your own shop?
I have always loved baking, but never thought of owning my own pastry shop until I stayed home to raise my kids. I always knew I wanted to be in the corporate world and someday own a business, but didn’t know what kind of business.
When I stayed home with my girls, I did a lot of entertaining. I enjoyed seeing my kid’s excitement when they would get home from school, and find out that I baked fresh cookies or their favorite dessert. It gave me a great joy that what I baked made them feel good, so I decided that is what I would like to do the rest of my life. Create something that screams “joy.” It can’t get better than that!
What are your girls dreaming of becoming? Any potential little chefs?
My youngest is loves to be in the kitchen with me, so maybe she would like to try the life of a pastry chef in the future. The other two enjoy eating it rather than making it.
Have you been to France? If so, what was your favorite meal there?
I’ve never been in France, but I grew up eating French food, specially the pastries. My grandmother and my mother are very good in the kitchen. Growing up, we used to eat more European food than we did Ethiopian food. I always had loved it when my mom makes a European dish–especially French or Italian–since it comes with a dessert at the end of every meal.
What makes Voila different than the average dessert shop?
We make our desserts from scratch with good quality ingredients, and we use natural ingredients with no preservatives. I take great care in knowing what I add to each pastry. It’s not just a job for me, it is my passion, so it is important to me that [the pastries taste as good as they look.]
What’s the most popular pastry or dessert at Voila?
We have a lot of favorites, but right now our Gateau Basque is very popular, as well as our croissants.
You custom-make orders–what was the most fun order to fill so far?
With the custom cakes, the birthday and wedding cakes are always special. It is wonderful to see a simple sketch turns into a beautiful edible art. But the most fun is when I create a cake where I get to incorporate a little bit of the person’s heritage or their history.
Any plans for expanding Voila into other locations?
Yes, I would love to expand Voila so I would be able to reach out to as many people as I can. I would love for people to taste a real pastry that is not loaded with preservatives or low quality ingredients. For example, when I say, “This is an almond cookie,” I know it is actually made with almond flour, and not just almond flavoring.
It’s takeout night. What are you ordering?
Gyro would be my choice. I love this Greek dish as much as I love Dolma (a Balkan dish) or Eggplant Lasagna.
Is there any dish or particular food you can’t stand?
I’m not a seafood lover. I do not eat seafood other than tuna or tilapia.
It’s Saturday morning in Alexandria. What’s the place to be?
Saturday morning in Alexandria has to be at Voila Pastry & Café. There is nothing like having a gourmet coffee and a freshly baked croissant in a relaxing atmosphere to start a weekend right.
Do you have any favorite chefs? Who’s your inspiration?
They are so many favorites but Julia Child and Jacques Pepin would be my first loves, right after my grandma and my mom. I use to love watching them on PBS back in the days. However, for pastry, I was inspired by the work of Roland Mesnier; Gaston Lenotre, and Jacques Torres, to name a few.
What’s something surprising most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t know that I don’t drink, but I love to pair liquor with my pastries.
From cupcakes to salted caramel everything–what dessert trends do you predict next?
I want to say classic French pastries like Caneles or Pairie Brest.
What’s your personal motto?
My personal Motto is from my favorite poet Maya Angelou. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I think I’m able to do that through my pastries. I love watching the expression on people’s faces when they first see their custom cake; when they first walk in our shop, or take the first bite of our pastries. For that, I could bake all day.
That pretty much sums it up. Head to Voila this weekend and start your morning right! By the way, if you’re looking for apartments in Alexandria, grab your pastry and meet us at The Parker. You’ll find luxury amenities and the incredible community features to match. Get in touch with us today if you have questions!