The untold truth of Joy the Baker
If you don’t know who Joy the Baker is yet, you have no idea what you are missing out on. Where do we even start? Joy the Bakerfirst started off in 2008 as a blog where Joy Wilson could share her love for brownies and other baked confections. Wilson’s recipes and photographs quickly turned the website into a huge success, and she soon became a major figure in the baking world.
These days, Wilson has branched out a little bit. She has three cookbooks to her name, but shares a lot more than her baking secrets in their pages. She also teaches readers how to pull off a mean brunch (complete with cocktails recipes, naturally). There’s clearly a lot more to this talented and charming baker than meets the eye. Whether you’ve been following Wilson’s career for the last decade, or have just discovered her many talents, you’re going to want to learn some of these little-known facts about the baker.
She grew up on health food
Cupcakes and other baked goods aren’t exactly what comes to mind when we think of healthy eating, which is why it’s so intriguing that Wilson, who grew up eating health food, went on to specialize in creating sweet confections. The baker told Yahoothat her parents were into “gnarly, super-crunchy health food” and that her house was filled with the kind of healthy food “that a 6-year-old doesn’t want to eat.”
Wilson recalled being jealous of her classmates who would have Oreos packed into their lunches. Even chicken nuggets were absent from her house. The health food may not have tempted her palate, but it did help to cultivate her interest in baking. Some of Wilson’s earliest kitchen experiments came about because she was trying to make something sweet out of her family’s supply of health food. “When I realized I could make sweet things out of a group of not very sweet things that we had in our house, it felt like magic,” she said.
Her love of baking goes way back
Wilson knew at a pretty young age that she wanted to bake. Like many children, she desperately wanted an Easy Bake Oven and begged for one each year. When she was 8, her dad let her use the full-sized oven in the kitchen for the first time and from then on, she was an unstoppable force.
It wasn’t just Wilson’s parents love for healthy foods that nurtured her innovation when it comes to recipes. If she wanted to bake, it had to be from whatever ingredients her family had in the pantry. “I always baked from scratch, only because my parents thought it a waste to buy boxed mixes,” she told Personal Chef Approach. While baking cookies and cakes from boxed mixes certainly would have been easier, learning to bake from scratch at such a young age provided a stronger education in baking that would serve her well as she got older.
Baking is in her blood
Her mom and dad may have deprived her of Oreos when she was a child, but their devotion to healthy eating didn’t mean that sweets were altogether banned in the Wilson household. In fact, Wilson’s dad played an instrumental role in the development of her baking prowess. “I was first introduced to the kitchen and the wonders therein by my father when I was very little,” Wilson told The Every Girl. “He taught me everything I know about pie, cookies, and good spaghetti sauce.”
Her father’s older sister also helped to teach Wilson how to bake. Wilson’s Aunt Dede lost her vision from a brain tumor but continued to bake in spite of it. “She taught me a lot about how ingredients are supposed to feel,” Wilson told Yahoo. “She couldn’t see the things she was putting together, so she had to feel them and she knew what her cake batter should feel like.”
She has no formal training
With such a huge following, not to mention a few cookbooks under her belt, it’s reasonable to expect that Wilson would have years of culinary school training on her resume. Her incredible success, however, isn’t the result of years of formal training. In fact, the baker has no formal training in the kitchen whatsoever. Aside from being taught by her dad and her aunt, most of Wilson’s baking knowledge comes from hands-on experience and self study.
Far from detracting from her skills as a baker, Wilson believes that her unique education is a distinct advantage that sets her apart from those with traditional training. “I feel like I have a style of baking that is not the style they teach at the French culinary school,” she told Sadie Magazine. “And I’m totally down with that.” Her legions of fans seem to agree. It just goes to show that hard work and passion really can take you anywhere!
She's also a self-taught photographer
One of the biggest draws of the Joy the Baker website is the scrumptious pictures of yummy food and drinks that Wilson posts to accompany her recipes. It would be easy to assume that she hires a professional photographer to take the shots, but Wilson actually photographs everything herself. And, just as with baking, Wilson learned everything she knows about photography on her own.
“I want my photographs to speak of me,” she told Personal Chef Approach. “I use lots of pattern and color and often odd compositions.” Wilson prefers to utilize natural light in her shoots, and has slowly learned the finer points of photography and photo editing.
“It’s all been a learning process,” she said. “My photos are untrained and imperfect, but they feel good to me… so I’m going with that.” It’s hard to disagree with her approach, because her photos look good to us, too.
English literature was her college major
While she didn’t formally study baking or photography, Wilson does use her actual field of study in her career. She had to put her baking on hold for a while in college where she studied English literature and worked two jobs. Wilson also studied play writing, with the ultimate goal of becoming a teacher. While she no doubt would have been a great teacher, we’re kind of glad that Wilson scrapped her original plans and pursued her love of baking.
While English lit and play writing are a far cry from Wilson’s ultimate career as a baker, at least her education didn’t go to waste. Her educational background really shines through on her website and in her cookbooks which showcase her writing skills. Wilson might have taken a roundabout way to end up in the career that she always wanted, but it looks like everything worked out for the best in the end.
She bluffed her way into the cooking industry
While it seems that her lack of formal training didn’t hurt Wilson in the long run, it did make it challenging to get jobs in the industry. Since she hadn’t attended any sort of cooking school and didn’t have a lot of professional experience in baking, Wilson had to get creative with her resume just to get her foot in the door.
Her first job was working in an ice cream shop when she was 15, so while Wilson did technically have experience in the food service industry, it wasn’t really what bakeries were looking for. To prove her skills, she would bring in baked goods to her job interviews. “I would finagle my way into baking jobs because I loved it but I didn’t have the experience,” Wilson told New Orleans Magazine. “So I had this trick of always bringing baked goods to my job interviews: like, here’s these cookies I baked for you, but also I’m showing you that I know how to bake.” It was a sneaky plan, but it looks like it worked!
She brews her own beer
Is there any end to the list of Wilson’s talents? She can bake, take an awesome photograph, and is an incredible writer, but that isn’t all she can do. In addition to all of these amazing talents, Wilson also brews her own beer. Homemade brew might not sound like the tastiest thing when done by amateurs, but this is Joy the Baker we’re talking about, so there is no way her beer is anything but delicious.
As you might have noticed by now, Wilson has a habit of finding something she likes and then just going off and pursuing it. Her love of brewing beer is no different. “I’m obsessed,” she told The Things I Think About. “It’s really cool.” As with her baking, Wilson takes beer brewing super seriously. She does everything by hand, down to grinding the grains herself. Now that’s some incredible dedication!
Her first cookbook almost didn't happen
While some celebs spend their lives pursuing fame until they achieve it, Wilson actively avoided the spotlight. Her down-to-earth personality is one of the things that makes her so relatable to her fans, but it almost damaged her career. We don’t even want to imagine a world where a Joy the Baker cookbook didn’t exist, but that’s very nearly what happened. Wilson told The Every Girl that she initially ignored the agent who first contacted her about writing a cookbook. “I ignored the agent for months,” she said. “I really had no thought in my mind that a cookbook was a possibility for me.”
It wasn’t really that Wilson didn’t want to write a cookbook. She just didn’t think that her blog was significant enough to warrant one. She eventually contacted the agent, but only to turn her down. “I tried to convince her that I only wrote a silly, little blog and had no business being a published author,” said Wilson. Fortunately, the agent refused to take no for an answer and the rest is history.
Julia Child is her idol
Joy the Baker takes her cue from another famous culinary figure: Julia Child. Like Wilson, Child was also a writer, although she turned to the culinary arts as an adult rather than growing up with it as Wilson did. Child was one of Wilson’s earliest influences. The young Wilson would watch Child on PBS as a child, mistaking the cooking show for a children’s show because of Child’s larger-than-life personality.
“She was just so silly!” Wilson told Sadie Magazine. “It was like watching Sesame Street for me. She’s such a character, and so big and sometimes clumsy, and her voice seems cartoonish. I thought that was a kid’s show—I really did.” Child’s show got Wilson to tune in and then keep watching the cooking shows that came on after. “I think that was my culinary school,” Wilson said. Home chefs have a lot to thank Child for, and it looks like we have Joy the Baker to add to that list.