More than the basics at this bakery

Rachel Klemek owns Blackmarket Bakery in Irvine, which is full of unique goodies not found in most stores.

December 11, 2010|By Joanna Clay,
  • Chef Rachel Klemek, the owner of Blackmarket Bakery in Irvine, makes a special Christmas sponge cake on Thursday.
Chef Rachel Klemek, the owner of Blackmarket Bakery in… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

IRVINE — A punk when she attended University High School here, Rachel Klemek has always been allured by the subversive.

Growing up in the South, and later in Irvine, she remembers not understanding the concept of cooking or enjoying food. Her childhood memories are of sitting in front of the television with saltines or relishing a Styrofoam cup of Top Ramen.

"I didn't even know what butter was," Klemek said.

However, to Klemek, countering her family's own culture — which never revered food — for a life of decorating cakes and perfecting hand-made marshmallows couldn't be more punk rock.

Her business, Blackmarket Bakery, is situated in a non-descript industrial complex by John Wayne Airport. The shop is dedicated to serving what chain markets don't. The Culinary Institute of America graduate bakes an array of goods that you won't ever find in your grocery store, from apricot ginger scones and artichoke, garlic and asiago croissants, to meringue pumpkin tarts.


It all started when Klemek met her husband, David Klemek. Dating at age 17, her then-boyfriend invited her over for their first Christmas together. The day served not only as an introduction to his family, but as the start of a new appreciation for food.

"Whenever you showed up at his house, there was a big spread," she said. "(His father) was always trying to feed you. Events were always centered around not only eating the food, but making the food."

During that Christmas, her foodie father-in-law gave her a gift: a cookie cookbook.

However, Klemek didn't come around to baking immediately. After graduating from University High, she went on to study anthropology at UC Irvine. After UCI, she went back down South to attend The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for a doctorate in anthropology. She quickly realized she wasn't meant to spend her life hiding behind library walls.

"This one guy in my program said, 'Well, either you're on the bus, like you're emotionally involved and you're going to do it, or you drive the bus, like you're a professor, or you just get off the bus,'" she said.

"I was like, wow, OK. I'm getting off the bus."

Klemek decided to focus on her family. At 23, she had her first child, Peter, and two more kids followed shortly after. She let her husband have the career, moving up to San Luis Obispo for his ceramics business. After six years, he got tired of it, and Klemek decided she was ready to reevaluate her own personal career aspirations.

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