The Interview: Claire Ptak, Violet Cakes and Violet Sessions
You have probably read, seen, or eaten something made by Claire Ptak. Her seasonal baking was honed in the kitchens of the Californian whole foods mecca Chez Panisse before making its way across the pond. Before opening everyone’s favourite homey Wilton Way bakery in 2010, Claire was a freelance food stylist and a regular vendor every Saturday at Broadway Market in East London. You can still find a Violet stand from 9 AM until closing every week at the market. From apple tarte tartin to blueberry pie, a quick scan through the archives of her weekly article for The Guardian is an enticing peek into a world that extends far beyond her delicious cakes made from organic flour, eggs, and seasonal produce.
Now you can listen to Claire, too. With Violet Sessions, Claire and her co-host Danielle Radojcin bring to the podcasting world (and their live audience) the same spirit of comfort, community, surprise encounter with awesome people that runs through her East London bakery-café every day. While we’ve loved each and every episode, their conversation with Christina Dean, founder of Redress, hits close to home. We’ve sat in the audience for some recording sessions, feeling the magic combination Claire describes as the “theatre of a restaurant and the intimacy of a conversation.”
We went for a visit to her Hackney home across from the bakery to nose around her cookbooks, meet her adorable dog Shuggie, and get some inspiration.
Danielle wears the Shago Shirt Dress by Nanushka. Shuggie wears own collar.
Describe Violet Sessions for the uninitiated. Violet Sessions is a bi-monthly podcast hosted by Danielle Radojcin and Claire Ptak, in talks with interesting women who do incredible things, exploring culture, creativity, work and lifestyle. Danielle Radojcin is a journalist, previously fashion and beauty editor at ASOS and a contributor at British Vogue. Claire Ptak, former pastry chef at Chez Panisse, is a stylist, food writer and owner of Violet Bakery in East London, where the podcasts are recorded.
Recent guests have included Alice Levine of hit podcast 'My Dad Wrote A Porno' and Radio 1, Penny Martin, Editor-in-Chief of The Gentlewoman, Plum Sykes, New York Times best-selling author and American Vogue contributor - to name a few. You can find out more about Violet Sessions and our previous episodes on our website http://www.violetcakes.com/blog and subscribe to the Violet Sessions podcast here.
What is the relationship between Violet Sessions and Violet Cakes? Violet Sessions was born out of a desire to get to know my customers who seemed infinitely fascinating and accomplished. I’m quite a curious person and I noticed that some really interesting work was being done upstairs in the cafe and I wanted to get to know the people behind it. People always seem to be curious about how I run my business and do something that I love, so I know that people are always interested in hearing stories from women, whatever industry they’re in.
The show is recorded at the bakery in front of a live audience. Has using the space in this different way made you feel differently about it? Even though podcasting is an audio medium, there’s something really lovely about recording it in front of a live audience. I think it combines the theatre of a restaurant and the intimacy of a conversation.
How did Danielle get involved? What does your collaborative process look like? I met Danielle when she came to interview me for a podcast series called My Big Idea, a couple of years ago. We hit it off and decided that we really wanted to do a project together and so we created Violet Sessions. We both have full time jobs and families so fitting in Violet Sessions can be challenging, but equally rewarding and that’s why we still do it.
How do you choose your guests? A lot of them really are customers, or friends of customers, or people that I have admired in their various fields. Why do you record in front of a live audience? A select few podcasts are recorded in front of a live audience, which becomes an event with drinks and snacks and a Q&A at the end. They are a great way to promote the guests work if they have a new project to talk about, for example we recently hosted the launch of Thomasina Miers' latest cookbook, Home Cook. Tommi is my oldest friend in London and this was a book that she wrote about cooking for her family. She is an incredibly busy businesswoman and campaigner, but her family remain at the heart of what she does. She is our perfect Violet Sessions woman. Why did you choose to focus on interviewing women for the show? I really just wanted to make a podcast where people could listen in and hear about cool women and what they do.
Describe a favourite moment from an interview. It’s got to be one from Alice Levine’s episode, when asking Alice about her Jackson & Levine supper clubs, I shared restaurant insider tips and horrified my guest. You’ll have to listen in to find out what I mean. What are your favourite podcasts or radio shows to listen to? Here’s The Thing With Alec Baldwin, BBC Woman’s Hour, the Kitchen Sisters Present, This American Life and My Dad Wrote A Porno.
Did you have experience in podcasting previously? Only as a guest, a handful of times. What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own podcast? Have a tag line. There are a million podcasts out there and people need a reason to listen to yours. What does the rest of the year hold for Violet Sessions? A really exciting live appearance at Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall, where we will talk to a handful of women who are appearing at the festival. What do you want your listeners to take away from a Violet Sessions interview? I just want them to want to listen to the next one.
Follow Claire on Instagram @violetcakeslondon Follow Violet Sessions on Instagram @violetsessions Visit the Violet Cakes website here For news and updates, follow @the_acey on Instagram See more journal features here