Sachi Nagase on the Power of Cooking and Baking


In her cozy home in Brooklyn, Sachi spoke to us about her passion for cooking and baking. Her sun-lit kitchen is filled with hand-crafted wooden shelves, all the kitchen tools you could possibly dream of, and beautiful flowers. Sachi is working as a barista at a cafe in Williamsburg, and on the side, she also runs a specialty cake business Sachi’s Cakes, as well as a dinner club called In the interview, she talked about how she fell in love with cooking and the kitchen as a space for making, as well as the power she feels when she is in control of the flow.

Sachi, tell me about your background and how it impacted what you are doing today.

I was born in Japan, and I lived there until I was four. My dad is Japanese and my mom is from the midwest, and we ended up moving to Illinois. Both my parents are adventurous and love to travel, and I am the same way. Not only that, but both my parents cooked when I was growing up: my dad made my lunches from kindergarten to 4th grade and then my mom started making my lunches. I developed an interest in cooking because it was always around me. In high school, my best friend and I would spend hours in the cooking section of the magazine aisle, then go grocery shopping and cook an elaborate dinner at home.

For college, I stayed in the midwest and studied studio art at Washington University in St. Louis. After graduation, I decided to throw myself into cooking and see if I could handle working in fine-dining.

Do you find cooking as a hobby different from it as a profession?

Definitely. During my senior year of college, I did an apprenticeship at a restaurant in St. Louis and that was the first time I had ever walked into a professional kitchen. When I moved to San Francisco after graduation, within two days I was “staging.”  “Staging” is basically working at a restaurant for free when you are looking for a job to see if the restaurant is the right fit, kind of like a working interview. A lot of times, high-caliber restaurants can get anyone to work for them, so sometimes cooks stage for months at a time. Some people use it to gain different types of cooking experience, but often it sucks because a lot of them are unpaid. I ended up line cooking at a restaurant called Octavia. It was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was so rewarding.

Tell me about Sachi’s Cakes.

I work at a cafe in Williamsburg as a money-making job, but I am also growing Sachi’s Cakes on the side. Sachi’s Cakes is a specialty cake business that I started around three years ago, and I make mostly birthday and wedding cakes on request. I enjoy baking small cakes that feed 8 people, but I have also done 5-tier cakes for weddings. I like using real flowers, and I like to experiment and have customer input when making the cake, being able to customize the cake in terms of flavors, colors, and design. My cakes definitely have an aesthetic, but I really like incorporating the customer’s preferences. At the same time, sometimes I appreciate the artistic freedom to do whatever I want.

I started Sachi’s Cakes because I have always loved baking and wanted to turn it into a career. I am still figuring it out how to do it. Social media is a great platform for pushing me forward. I started by making an Instagram and put a lot of work into making meaningful content. Most of my clients are either friends or people who knew me from Instagram.

Tell me about what it is like working in a cafe.

Recently, I have been coming to terms with being happy as a barista and a cook. There was so much pressure after I graduated to be “successful,” work in an office, and have all the amenities that your job gives you. I felt like being a barista was looked down upon, and recently it’s been something that I take a lot more pride in.

What is one of your long-term goals?

Katie is my friend from college and during school we started doing supper club dinners. By hosting these intimate dinners at our house, we made it as affordable as possible for people in the St. Louis community to access fine-dining experiences.

We just started doing these dinners again in Brooklyn under the name, and I am excited to see what will happen. Eventually, it would be nice to have a storefront or a space to operate in. Related to that, I would also love to have a space to run Sachi’s Cakes. One of my ideas is to have a cafe that serves pastries and cakes, and customers can also order specialty cakes. On Fridays, Katie and I would cook set meals and on Saturdays we can host private events. Having a multi-purpose space like that would be my long term vision.

Is there a daily mindset you live by?

Cooking and having small rituals keep me grounded. For example, I love breakfast. I have to eat breakfast and drink tea or coffee before going to work.

What does being powerful mean to you, and what makes you powerful?

I think a lot of people think about power as being your true self and being comfortable and confident in yourself. I agree with that, but I also think for me, specifically, it is about having personal control over things. The kitchen, or just the act of making/creating, is a space where I have a certain level of control that only I can exhibit. For me, that feels powerful. That’s what drives me to build Sachi’s Cakes and host dinners, because it feels nourishing to make something hands-on.

Is there something that brings you power when you need it?

This is kind of silly, but I love my bangs. I don’t think I will ever go back to having no bangs. After I cut my bangs I felt like a lot of things changed for me–maybe it was a certain time in my life, but now I’ve completely embraced them.

Check out Sachi’a Cakes and for more. 


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