Within a year of graduating from culinary school and after a bad car accident, Lila Jai Colello launched Brûlée Bakery. By TORI MARCHIONY
Chef Lila Jai Colello is a 34-year-old entrepreneur based on the Main Line. A graduate of the pastry program at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and the 2010 James Beard Scholarship recipient (a really big deal in the culinary world), Chef Lila has spent the past year developing and launching her new internet-based business called Brûlée Bakery.
Following her third car accident, Colello found herself unable to work the long shifts required in the restaurant industry following her graduation from pastry school. With a sudden need to create her own hours coupled with a steadfast unwillingness to rest on her laurels while she healed from her injuries, she decided that there was no better time than the present to make her dreams of owning a bakery a reality. From her home office in Upper Darby, Colello has spent the past nine months working tirelessly on her business plan and on getting her website up-and-running. “The biggest challenge right now is that I’m the person doing everything- marketing, sales, baking etc. It’s hard to be the one person for everything. Regardless of how I’m feeling it still has to get done,” she said.
Even though she’s operating a one-woman ship and feels like it’s “a very slow-moving process,” Colello has managed the impressive feat of getting her business up and running within a year after graduating from culinary school. She currently hosts a stand at the Overbrook farmers’ market each week as well as one at the Clover Market in Ardmore, while still taking orders from private clients. “Seeing the same people wanting to try new things from me is really exciting,” she says of her experience selling her creations so far. Though outdoor markets and online sales are fine for now, Chef Lila ultimately has bigger dreams in mind. “I would like a brick-and-mortar location. I want to provide an experience for people where they come into a warm environment and have great coffee and pastry pairings. I want to be a staple of the community where I’m participating in various fundraisers and where people can hear Brûlée Bakery and know what it is and who’s behind it,” she said.
Colello said she believes the most important quality for any young professional is ambition. “You need to know that you’re never going to give up on yourself no matter what comes up. There’s most likely going to be some kind of hiccup along the way, but you can’t take no for an answer. Know who you are and know that you can do anything that anyone else can do regardless of what gender you are.” For Colello, the back injuries that she sustained from the car accident, as well as the financial burden of launching a business, have been the primary challenges. Balancing physical therapy with baking, menu planning and website designing has kept her busy, but undeterred.
Clearly unafraid of adversity, Collelo feels that she has what it takes to make her bakery stand out enough to become the kind of community staple she dreams of, even in a tough economic climate and a carb-conscious neighborhood. Her elite training in French pastry and knack for creating unique flavors combine with her use of wholesome ingredients to entice a wide range of consumers. “I use organic ingredients from local farms exclusively and work whole-wheat flour into all of my pastries in order to make recipes more nutritious,” she said. In addition to health-benefits, she makes it a point to buy local in order to make her business as eco-friendly as possible. “I’m committed to employing the most sustainable practices I can find, whether it comes in the form of buying local or composting waste, or even just recycling, in order to best support both local and global communities.” •
For custom orders, go to http://www.bruleebakery.com