Create & Cultivate 100: Food: Candace Nelson

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Candace Nelson has figured out the recipe for success. 

It's pizza, cupcakes, and a cupcake ATM. The founder and pastry chef of Sprinkles Cupcakes, the world's first cupcake bakery, legit started a cupcake craze in 2005. Barbra Streisand sent Sprinkles to Oprah. Jimmy Kimmel saw the cupcakes on Oprah's show, and stood in line for 45 minutes to buy $80 worth of them. In 2012, a pregnancy craving inspired the company’s first cupcake ATM in Beverly Hills. It was 24-hour access to freshly baked red velvet. 

But with over 20 Sprinkles locations under her chef's apron, Candace decided to test her hand at another comfort carb: pizza. She's a woman after our own hearts. 

Pizzana launched in L.A.'s Brentwood neighborhood, with Daniele Uditi as chef and Candace as executive pastry chef, and once again, people lined up. People, including L.A.'s most notable food critic Jonathan Gold, who willingly waited in line for hours. In June 2017, the critic bylined the article, "Jonathan Gold willingly waits in line for hours at Pizzana, where Neapolitan pizza goes L.A." Enough written. 

Her successes are many, her recipes superb. Though we have to wonder how does she find time to do it all? We really can't tell-- though it may have something to do with the fact that she doesn't have to wait in line for her own food.

More from Candace below. 

Name: Candace Nelson

Instagram Handle: @candacenelson

Business Instagram Handle: @pizzana_la

In 2005 you created a cupcake craze. It's been over ten years of lines out the door now. What do you think is your secret sauce for success?

Innovation! We innovated 13 years ago by creating the world’s first cupcake bakery, and by elevating the cupcake itself. And we have continued to delight, surprise and innovate along the way with Sprinkles ice cream, the Cupcake ATM, whisper word programs and more.

And yet, Sprinkles came about after you lost your job. Where do your drive and passion come from?

Well, I’m a Taurus, so I’m very stubborn and determined. But really, I think challenges are often opportunities in disguise. I would never have quit my high paying job to attend pastry school, but when the bottom dropped out of the internet world in 2000, I was forced to consider what I really wanted to do with my life.

What does it mean to be a "cupcake expert?"

I think experience and training is the key to creating an expert in any field. Between the 13 years of founding and running Sprinkles and the 100+ episodes of judging Cupcake Wars on Food Network, I have quite a bit of both. I also have a new dessert competition show coming out on Netflix this year. Yes, more “expertise!"

Is there a specific smell from your childhood that brings up a great memory for you?

The smell of Toll House chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven!

What's something about the pastry biz that surprised you? And you think most other people would be surprised by.

When my husband and I were first starting Sprinkles, we went to a bakery convention in Las Vegas. As we were new to the industry, we figured it was a great place to learn a lot about the services and products available to us — all in one place. We were dismayed to learn that most of the companies there were focused on chemical additives to help extend the shelf life of baked goods. Everyone thought our plan of baking our cupcakes fresh from scratch every day was bound to fail.

Everyone thought our plan of baking our cupcakes fresh from scratch every day was bound to fail.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

I love problem-solvers so it irks me when someone can only see the obstacles in getting something done.

What's something you'd like people to know about your work that they probably don’t?

I am the executive pastry chef at Pizzana, a neo-neapolitan pizzeria in Brentwood. If you haven’t tried the desserts there, please do! Sometimes people fill up so much on our incredible pizza that it’s hard to save room!

What about your career makes you feel the most complete?

I love the fact that I do something that my children can understand and even participate in. They are constantly offering ideas for new cupcake flavors and desserts at Pizzana. It’s a true family business!

I do something that my children can understand and even participate in.

If you had to trade jobs with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?

A contemporary art advisor. To travel the world looking at and advising on contemporary art, connecting with artists and collectors would be fascinating and exciting.

At what point in your career did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the woman you are today?

That is a generous assessment, however, I consider my career to be a journey with room for growth and learning every step of the way.

What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?

My friend Reese Witherspoon says that women should embrace ambition and stop shying away from that word. She has inspired me to acknowledge my own ambition and to encourage other women in my life to do the same.

When you hit a big bump in the road, how do you find a new road or a detour?

I think self-compassion is key to any bump in the road.  It’s hard to fail, but important to honor the fact that you didn’t take the easy or expected path.

"It’s hard to fail, but important to honor the fact that you didn’t take the easy or expected path."

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What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?

"Free Falling" by Tom Petty.