On a recent day at the love café in Washington, D.C., a clutch of young mothers visits in one corner, babies bobbling on laps, while two twentysomethings chat in another. Clustered around a low table spread with order forms, menus, and pastel coffee mugs, Warren Brown gathers his staff for a meeting.
The setting is a far cry from the sterile conference room and stacks of briefs he abandoned when he switched careers from attorney at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to baker. Creating such successes as Citron Bundt, a cake embellished with grapefruit segments that caramelize into tiger stripes on its outer surface, proved more appealing to Brown than cooking up briefs and depositions. He says he got a hint of the promise baking held for him while he was at Brown. As a student, he carried a homemade cake through an airport one day, and when he saw the warm glances and enthusiastic remarks it attracted, he made a New Year’s resolution to bake more.
Brown began baking his professional creations in his apartment for three or four hours each night after work, filling orders he received through word of mouth. He held a cake open house, took a three-month leave of absence, then quit his job. Watching him among his cupcakes and meringues at Cake Love, his Washington, D.C., bakery, and at the Love Café across the street, it’s clear that he’s now in his element.
Brown opened his first bakery in March 2002 on U Street, a recently revived corridor of hip restaurants, clubs, and shops. The bakery did a steady business in cakes with such names as Sarah’s Secret, a “devilishly decadent short torte” with almond praline, and Susie’s a Pink Lady with raspberries and vanilla. Another hit was Crunchy Feet, a kind of muffin-top baked in miniature brioche pans. In August 2003, Brown opened the Love Café. He’s since been profiled in the Washington Post, featured on Oprah, and has even landed as one of the country’s most eligible bachelors in People magazine.
People are always asking Brown for advice on switching careers. How can they follow their own passion? Brown tells them that following one’s dream is “so much more than, ‘I’ll go to the park and reflect, or do some yoga classes, and listen to the inner voice.’” You have to be ready to hear that inner voice and act, he says.
Those who remember Brown from his university days would recognize the enthusiasm and dedication that have made his business a success. This is the class president who wore a Mohawk, then cut “ ’93” into his hair to show his class spirit.
For more information, go to www.cakelove.com