Why This 21-Year-Old Uses Baking to Inspire and Promote Happiness

Life Over Lattes: Baking Up Creativity and Inspiration With Grace Daniel

If you happen to know Grace Daniel, then you know she is the epitome of a lovable human being. Her words are thoughtful and kind. Her energy is positively radiant. And, her soul, well it’s just as sweet as the pastries she can mysteriously whip up out of thin air.

About 10 years ago, Grace started spending time in the kitchen as an outlet for some relaxation. Yet, it didn’t take long for her to realize her fondness of baking. This room quickly became her happy place. A place where she could freely create. A place where she could evoke inspiration. A place she could bring people together and new connections would be made.

I find Grace’s story inspiring not only because she found her passion at such a young age, but also because she is using her talent to make this world we are so blessed to call home a better place. And, while I might be a bit bias since this lovely lady happens to be my baby sister, there is no doubt that what she’s doing is pretty incredible!

So, without further ado…

Name: Grace Daniel
Age: 21
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

Let’s start from the very beginning. Where did your love for cooking and baking start? When did you know your creative happy place was in the kitchen?
I’d say my love for cooking started in mom’s new kitchen. I remember I was about 12 years old, and we had been cooking whatever was easiest in the dining room for so many months. So, when the new kitchen was complete, it became my favorite place to “hangout” in the house.

After watching mom create such yummy dishes, I decided I wanted to give it a shot. Once I started cooking, it soon felt so natural and was so relaxing to me. I couldn’t seem to get enough of it!

I started out baking because who doesn’t like sweets? Baking is so much fun, and will probably always be my favorite thing to do. However, it’s usually unhealthy, and as someone who even then cared about health, I decided I should venture out into cooking more wholesome foods.

From the tastes, to the smells, to the smiles on people’s faces when they take that first bite from your creation – What is your absolute favorite thing about cooking?
There is nothing more satisfying in life than pleasing others and seeing someone else become happy. Personally, I believe there is nothing that brings people together more than food.

When I cook for someone I get the satisfaction I need by seeing their smile right when they look at my creation, and again once they taste it, too! But, even more so, I know they will probably not eat that cake, casserole, etc. alone, so that means I am bringing people together, which is a great feeling.

You mentioned you are intrigued in discovering modifications to make recipes healthier. Can you tell us more about this process, and what you find most fascinating about this concept?
As a Food Science major, and food connoisseur with an interest in nutrition, I am always looking for ways to make a recipe my own.

Whether it comes down to changing just a simple measurement, or completely changing an ingredient, I usually want to alter the recipe somehow to shape it with my subtle touches.

I always take pride in telling people I found a way to make the recipe healthier, because with a food science background, my job is to change the chemical makeup of food without changing the product.

You have taught yourself all the skills you’ve learned thus far. Talk about impressive!

How do you continue to develop new skills in the kitchen? What are some of your favorite sources for inspiration?
I know there is always room for improvement in every aspect in life, but that can only be attained by determination and sheer drive of wanting to do it. I have a passion for cooking probably more than anything else in life, and it pushes me to always become better.

I hope to continue improving my skills by learning not only the practical skills, but also the technical ones that come along with the art. I have come to learn it is always better to just ask for help, because you never know what kind of extra information you may end up getting that could be more beneficial than what you were initially wondering about.

I get a lot of my inspiration from glancing through cookbooks and browsing Pinterest, as well as trying to formulate ideas of what I want to create. I always have music playing when I’m cooking. Usually something soothing I can sing along to, which calms me down and helps me to create a better end result.

Which do you prefer: cooking or baking?
I prefer baking, because I find it a lot more fun, and I think baked goods are prettier. I like the pastel color palate and baking tends to follow that palate.

Baking also just makes everyone happy. Even though some people avoid sweets, most everyone loves them, so you can’t really go wrong with bringing a cake or cookies to any function.

I’ve started to come out of my comfort zone and cook more, which has resulted in a new love for cooking. But, baking will always have my heart. I’ll never forget the earliest memories of licking the bowl clean when my mom would let me bake with her.

You’re known for creating absolute delicious food, and not even taking part and eating your creation. How do you have this much self-control!? Is there one dish or recipe in which you just cannot pass up a taste?!
When I cook, I don’t do it for me, I do it for everyone else. I love the joy of seeing others smile at my creation, as well as seeing the fellowship that comes with eating.

I have never been big on eating when I bake without modifications, because I see what goes into the product and it usually turns me away from even wanting to try it.

Everyone has those special dishes in which they just can’t pass up, and for me, it would have to be carrot cake, orange cream cake, or lemon bars.

This fall will mark the beginning of your senior year at NC State. So exciting! Can you let us in on what your dream job would be upon graduating?
I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a senior and to have the opportunity to start implementing all I that have learned here at NC State.

After graduating, I would love to work for a health foods company, such as Cliff or KIND bar, and help to formulate a new product in either the Product Development or Research and Development Department.

Another exciting job I would be interested in would be to work for a company like Archer Daniels Midland, and determine the next big health foods “fad” to get out to the market.

How do you incorporate creativity in your everyday life? 

I try to incorporate creativity into my daily life by doing at least something I enjoy once a day. Whether it is cooking something fun, going for a run, or just going to a new coffee shop and reading a book, I always try to do something that will make me happy. I believe if you do a little bit to help your body, your body will help you.

By having this routine and giving myself a little “me time” I am able to be more creative and have a more relaxed attitude, which helps sparks my creativity throughout the day.

Not too long ago, you worked at Sugar Euphoria, a local bakery in Raleigh. Can you tell us about this experience?
Working at Sugar Euphoria was one of the best things I could’ve done to become a better baker. My boss allowed me to take a lot on and be almost completely independent in the kitchen, which allowed me to grow so much in my confidence of cooking.

I would have such proud moments when the desserts I created were sold out, or when someone asked who made/decorated the desserts I created. It’s not too hard for me to cook at home for my family or friends, but when you are cooking to sell, it becomes a whole different ball game. You must be prepared that some people might not be too keen on your product or prices.

This job taught me my biggest lesson in the culinary world: to be proud of what you create and not let anyone bring you down. Because, at the end of the day, there will always be some people who will make negative comments.

You recently visited Costa Rica on a sustainability trip, and you will be spending this upcoming summer in Italy studying abroad. To say traveling is a big part of your life seems like an understatement!

What is it about exploring new places that excites you the most? In what way does immersing yourself in new and diverse cultures strengthen your skills as an aspiring chef?
Exploring new places means immersing yourself in new ideas, new connections, and new memories. What could you want more than that? All three of these aspects have helped me become even more creative in my culinary career. I like to take what I learn from other countries and apply it to my own cooking style. This then allows me to have my own flare to recipes.

It’s safe to say cooking is by far your greatest passion, and you were fortunate enough to make this discovery at such a young age. What is one piece of advice you’d tell someone who is currently seeking to find his or her own passion in life?
Don’t look for your passion. If you do, you probably will never find it.

Passion is something that comes naturally. I’m not saying you won’t have to work to find it, but it will be easier to work for it than most things, because you’ll enjoy doing it. Remember, it is never too late to start something new.

I was very lucky to discover my love for cooking at such a young age, but I cannot help but think how Julia Child did not find her love for cooking until she was in her 50’s. Look at how far she went with her passion. Therefore, never think it’s too late because age is just a number.

Lastly, what does creativity mean to you?
Creativity is what drives you to be able to be passionate about something, and what gives you the power to create what you’re passionate about.

Thank you so much, Grace!

Be sure to follow Grace on Instagram if you’re looking for daily inspiration! Although, be warned: You might get hungry.

*all photos provided by Grace Daniel

To read more inspirational Life Over Lattes stories, click here.

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