Some people start a business to make money, while others take the plunge to follow their passion. Marisa Kroes, founder, owner, and head pastry chef of Orange & Blossom, wholeheartedly embodies the latter. Orange & Blossom is a rare combination of sustainable, farm-to-table sourcing methods and high-end desserts. It was created early this year as a way to ethically bring the whimsical approach of a high-end restaurant desserts directly to the farmers market. Marisa’s didn’t set out to make good vegan desserts. Her goal was to make desserts that taste great to everyone. Regardless of which dessert you try, it takes just one bite to know that this is something magical.
Marisa has been working towards opening Orange & Blossom her entire life; she just didn’t know it. Coming from a big Bay Area family who loved to cook, her early life was imbued with the passion of cooking. She attended culinary school as a teenager after college, then took an internship for a nonprofit providing education opportunities to local orphans in Tanzania. This internship, which was initially not about cooking at all, provided the spark which reignited her passion for pastry. She was asked by the program director to teach the local women to make bread and sweets, which began a cross culture culinary exchange where Marisa learned to bake Tanzanian food too. About her time in Tanzania, she said, “I knew I liked baking, and working in international affairs made me hyper aware of how food systems affect animals and people.”
Her passion for pastry continued to grow, leading her to work at some of the best restaurants in California, including Flea Street with Jesse Cool. While some chefs are satisfied with being provided ingredients, Marisa’s passion for cooking expanded out of the kitchen and into the farms where her ingredients were grown. She had always taken the farm-to-table mantra seriously, but it was at Slanted Door that the phrase took on a new meaning. She was in charge of the pastry kitchen which included everything from buying local ingredients, talking with farmers about their growing practices to creating high end desserts.
After working in restaurants for years, she grew tired of the grind. But as a chef she held on to her attachment to the most friendly and wholesome places – farmers markets. At Portland Farmers Market, the seasonality of Northwest produce sparked her creativity and lined up well with her already established practices of ethical sourcing. Everyone knows farmers markets are delicious places to eat, but she noticed that the dessert offerings lacked the refinement one would find in a fancy restaurant. The market was open, she was experienced, and most importantly, she was passionate. This is the moment where the idea that would become Orange & Blossom began to take shape.
Portland was the perfect place for Marisa’s passions to collide. By focusing on sustainable sourcing, ethical practices, and the seasonal ingredients that farmers markets provided, she found a place to sell her sweets sourced from vendors who are right next door. Marisa’s unique and high-quality vegan pastries are inspired by the seasons. And in just a few short months since she officially opened her business, Orange and Blossom has quickly become an unforgettable dessert experience at the Kenton Farmers Market.
Not even the COVID-19 pandemic could slow her down. She cut costs by not having a brick and mortar store, uses a shared kitchen space (always with the highest degree of cleanliness and social distancing), and her online delivery platform was so successful she had to scale back the number of places she delivers. While the weather has been great lately, the pandemic has certainly been a cloud over all of Portland this summer. But every cloud has a silver lining, and one of the silver linings here is certainly the creation of Orange & Blossom.
Next time you’re at Kenton Farmers Market, be sure to swing by to say hello to Marisa. In describing what she wants her desserts to be, she said, “I wanted to bring refinement, unique flavors, and spectacular desserts to a farmers market. I wanted to bring that whimsical approach to dessert out of the restaurant and directly to the consumer.” If you visit Orange & Blossom and taste her delicious cookies and pastries, you’ll know she achieved this goal.
Photos by Brit Forbes