Tessa and Teresa Velazquez on Building Their Business as a Family

They’re the reason we could keep going.

The Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. Tessa Velazquez was 11 when her family started beloved D.C. bakery Baked & Wired from their kitchen. Her mom, Teresa, has been at the helm of all things creative, constantly baking treats inspired by their family recipes. Today, the family continues to run Baked & Wired as well as A Baked Joint and La Betty. We joined Tessa and Teresa in their family home to talk about how family has become the key to their growth.

Teresa Velazquez: I come from a big family. There were six of us kids, and both of my parents worked, so all of us had a role. I gravitated toward cooking. I was the one making dinner for eight, maybe nine depending on what stray ended up in our house at the time. I loved baking and would find old cookbooks to make banana bread, fudge.

Even at that age, it wasn’t like a chore to me. Dinners have always been really special to me, even as a kid. There were six of us kids, and everyone had sports or activities, yet somehow my parents always managed to get us all together to have dinner. I carried that on into my family.
Even at that age, it wasn’t like a chore to me. Dinners have always been really special to me, even as a kid.

Tessa Velazquez: I grew up in the kitchen with my mom. Baked & Wired opened up when I was 11 years old, and it started in our actual kitchen. I was helping out where I could, rolling out cookie-dough balls, adding sprinkles. Like my mom, I had a draw, a natural interest in it and got to learn all of the whys and hows of baking from a young age. I got to see that from the back end, but as I got older I spent a lot of time in the stores.

Teresa: I never get tired of being in the kitchen. Sometimes I’m doing R&D all day, and then I come home to my kitchen and I’m up until three in the morning baking. It’s like a drug; I can feel the adrenaline pumping and things in my brain coming together and how flavors will work. To me, it’s a rush of knowing that something in my head will work and then seeing how it works. All of that centralizes around what I'm going to give to people.
I never get tired of being in the kitchen. Sometimes I’m doing R&D all day, and then I come home to my kitchen and I’m up until three in the morning baking.


Tessa: I saw the hustle and bustle behind the scenes and then actually went to the store and saw people enjoy it. I saw their faces light up as they took a bite of that cupcake my mom just made. It’s addictive to get that reward of not just being creative and taking different ingredients to make something beautiful but also seeing that other people can enjoy it so much.
 

I saw their faces light up as they took a bite of that cupcake my mom just made.

Teresa: When we opened Joint, it was just going to be coffee and a toast bar with our homemade bread. Tessa sat me down and was like, “Okay, Mom, let’s just talk about what you make.” All of these recipes started flowing from our family dinners — but on a sandwich. Our homemade meatloaf but on our pain de mie, or prosciutto and scallion cream cheese on a baguette. Then every food I've ever made turned into a sandwich or soup or some form that went on the menu at the Joint. So all of our special foods turned into everyday items.

Tessa: When I come to visit we have brunch: pancakes and eggs. That’s always been a special meal. We love to cook things we don’t have in the store. A lot of what we sell are family recipes, though, so some things like pancakes seem so simple, but that’s what’s special for us.


A lot of what we sell are family recipes, though, so some things like pancakes seem so simple, but that’s what’s special for us.


Teresa: I don’t bake at home because if I bring something home that I’ve baked I’m kind of over it. Right now, I’m so short-staffed, and the demand is so much greater than it’s ever been that my husband and I might not see each other for days. I’ll get up at two or three in the morning, and he’ll get up at five or six and get my coffee ready for me, and a lot of times now he is making dinners for me, which is such a role reversal.

Tessa: I was cooking every day multiple times a day when I moved to New York because I wasn’t in the restaurants or bakeries. I was living alone, working a lot, and I was forced to cook more, which was a fun opener for me to get creative in the kitchen. There are so many specialty food stores here, too, and places to get great ingredients. Even though I’m in New York and there are the best restaurants in the world, I’m having more fun cooking at home.

I’m cooking for me, my partner, friends who come through, and my newsletter, where I’m making new recipes all week. I’m mostly cooking these days because with baking you need a bunch of people to help you eat! So when I’m going somewhere, my friends know I’m a dessert person and I’ll bring dessert.


Teresa: I never grew up thinking of owning a bakery. My husband’s architectural firm was upstairs from where Baked is now. We opened a copy store where Baked is first. We eventually divided the space up, and I figured, How hard can this be? I just started making a select menu of pies, cookies, and muffins. Once people started to come in, we expanded, and the other business got pushed out of the space. All of this stemmed from just giving this thing a try. We tend to jump into things with an attitude like, Yeah, how hard can it be?

We tend to jump into things with an attitude like, Yeah, how hard can it be? 

We ended up buying the house next door to ours and turning it into our working kitchen. So I could still be a mom but sneak next door and bake all night. If I look back at where we are now, it’s surreal to see this journey we’ve gone on, from this idea of “Yeah, I can bake,” to now what we’re doing. It’s insane.


Tessa: My first jobs were being a barista, and I served cupcakes. I was a manager. I learned every single job at a young age, worked at the store during college breaks. After college I wanted to learn more about running a small business, and then we all decided to open A Baked Joint, with this idea of bringing fresh bread to the D.C. area because there weren’t a lot of options. We opened that up in 2015, and that was my first experience of opening a whole place from the beginning — a crash course in hiring, training, menu development, and all of the things that come with it. Then in 2019 we decided to open La Betty, and we had never done a restaurant before, so we learned so much about all aspects of that world. My whole life has been a crash course in the food industry.


My whole life has been a crash course in the food industry.


I moved to New York a couple of years ago, and at the time I thought of opening a café, which is on pause thanks to COVID. I’ve gotten really interested in writing about food, recipe development, and cheffing, so I’m still on my food journey. I’ve done the operations and business side, and now I'm going into the writing part of it and finding this whole other world I didn’t know existed. But it all still comes back to food — that’s my passion.


I’m excited about taking what I've learned from Baked & Wired — how to make a great product and build community — but my goal is to make that more accessible to people no matter where they live. I want them to feel that same passion from Baked & Wired — the same fun, silliness, and love — but access it in this modern time on the internet or other ways.


I want them to feel that same passion from Baked & Wired — the same fun, silliness, and love — but access it in this modern time on the internet or other ways.


Teresa: It's great to watch her and watch her development in the kitchen. The whole thing with what we do — it’s so family-oriented. There are four of us, and we all have our own special role. I’m in the kitchen and creative. Tessa is all operations. My son is in charge of the coffee program and creates all of the milks. My husband oversees the finances. We all have our special niche, but we never would have opened Joint if both of the kids hadn’t decided to come back. They’re the reason we could keep going. We couldn’t keep growing unless we could do it as a family.


We all have our special niche, but we never would have opened Joint if both of the kids hadn’t decided to come back. They’re the reason we could keep going.


Tessa: This is a really special family recipe: the roast and the spaetzle with roasted veggies. It’s not a complicated dish to make, but it’s what we make a couple of times a year for those special occasions. It’s my mom’s great-grandmother’s recipe; it really is a family-heirloom recipe. We use a special German press to do it.

Teresa: Once we started, it all flew naturally for us. The cookware was just fabulous. If you don’t have the right skillet for the spaetzle you won’t get a nice crispy fry, and then you’ve ruined your meal. It cooked so evenly — it was effortless. Every nook and cranny and surface was crispy and beautiful. All of the veg on the pan was so beautiful. We were about to plate everything, and then I was like, “Why don’t we just plate everything in the skillet?” because it all looked so beautiful!

Photos by Farrah Skeiky

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