We had the good fortune of connecting with Callista Mei and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Callista, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is the scariest yet most satisfying die to roll. The uncertainty of your decision is something many people wouldn’t even gamble with but like they say; there’s no reward without risk. When I decided to go out on my own and create a brand that was uniquely me, of course I was terrified. But I had spent almost all my life being told what to do, how to look, what to wear, what was wrong with my body and what roles I fit into; exhausting. I got to a point where I thought, “If people aren’t going to like me, they may as well not like the real me.” Funnily enough, the moment I decided to embrace truly who I am and what I stand for, people gravitated more than ever. There’s something about a person who takes the risk of being unapologetically themselves, with no regard of the negative feedback, that I think people see as brave and inspiring. The moment I embraced my brand which is truly representative of who I am, more doors and opportunities have opened than ever before. It’s not a risk to try to fit the mold that makes everyone else comfortable or to fit this unrealistic ideal that isn’t even real. It’s a risk to go against the crowd, stand out, be bold, and have a voice that is uniquely yours. Go big baby or go home.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When people ask me what I do, I always say, “I’m a Pastry Chef”; because that is what I am to the core. I live, breath and eat (literally) the art of baking. Every side venture I have done and brand I’ve created has always centered around pastry no matter the context. Even when I went to school and was working in media, cooking was my go to stress relief, my happy place and my love language. I remember having lunch with my mom and sharing my frustrations with where I was in my media career and she asked me, “Well, what would you do if this didn’t work out?” and with zero hesitation I said, “Cook.” It was that moment where I thought, why am I making my passion my hobby when it could be my career? In that moment I decided to look into how I could make that into a reality, being someone who had zero professional kitchen experience or culinary school training. I began applying for pastry cook positions all over town and somehow landed a gig at Nancy Silverton’s, Osteria Mozza. Talk about beginners luck, huh? That really threw me right into things and it was very intimidating, but man, did it kick me into shape for that industry. If you would have told me a year before I’d be working in one of the most popular restaurants in LA, expediting 300 plus covers a night and working underneath James Beard winning chefs I literally would have laughed in your face. That experience was invaluable and really opened doors for me, not only in my career but to hone in on exactly I wanted to do. Then it all clicked. All my experience in media, with food, from film school. I realized my true calling was to share my passion for pastry with as many people as I could, while continuing to learn from other talented chefs around the world. So I decided to produce and host my own food based web series titled, Six Sweet Under: Desserts To Die For, where I feature unique desserts and the people behind them. My web series is a cumulation of every path I’ve taken, every job I’ve had, every person who told me no, every passion of mine coming together to prove that it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you do.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m one of the rare folks in Los Angeles who actually grew up here. Which nowadays seems to be more rare than a celebrity sighting. But LA gets a bad wrap, because it’s the fame hungry transplants that feed into the stereotypical facade of Hollywood. I guarantee you anyone who grew up here is the farthest thing than how Los Angeles is represented. It’s a diverse city, full of colorful people, varying landscapes and every cuisine you could image. So I guess the only thing that is true about Angelenos is that we are definitely spoiled. Being a typical controlling Taurus, here’s what my LA itinerary would consist of… Food: Bay Cities Italian Deli: Specifically their Chicken Parm sandwich. You get to cut the long lines since it’s considered a hot case item. When they ask. you if you want roasted peppers, sauce and parmesan, you say yes. Trust me. Also stroll the aisles and grab amazing imported Italian goods and don’t forget to check the back for fresh bread. Feel the bags for the warmest one, that’s the freshest. Leo’s Taco Truck: You’ll find this taco truck always on the corner of La Brea and Venice in the parking lot of a gas station. You’ll notice the giant spit of al pastor spinning as the chef flicks tiny pieces of pineapple from the top and catches it perfectly in a tiny tortilla. Cheap, delicious, late night eats that represents the amazing Mexican food Los Angeles has to offer. Same Same: A Thai hole in the wall on Sunset in the heart of Silver Lake. Consistently delicious, authentic, trendy with a moody yet casual ambience. Musso & Frank Steak House: If you want a splurge meal and feel like you’re dining in the same seats the Rat Pack once did, head to this LA icon. Sit at the counter so you can watch the grill master perfectly cooking about 30 steaks at a time; all different cuts, all different temps, but of course they come out perfectly. I always get the Manhattan cut with a side of fries extra crispy and creamed spinach. They respect the meat by doing nothing to it other than seasoning it. Don’t ask for steak sauce, don’t ask for onion rings on top. This ain’t Outback. SuperCool Creamery: Leave it to LA to have a circus themed ice cream shop that’s made to order with liquid nitrogen. Right next the The Vista Theater in Silverlake it’s the perfect date night and totally kicks Coldstone’s ass. Pizzeria Mozza: Okay maybe I’m biased because I worked here but well before I did, it had my favorite dessert in the city. The Coconut Gelato Pie with dark chocolate sauce, salted almonds and topped with whipped creme fraiche. Now, this is seasonal so you’ll be lucky to catch it, but if you don’t, don’t fret, the Butterscotch Budino and all their house made gelatos are out of this world. The pizza ain’t too shabby either. Dan Sung Sa: Outrageously good Korean food in the heart of K Town, where all the waiters wear camouflage and if it’s your birthday, they bring you an entire watermelon with sparklers in it. No, I’m not making this up. The crispy rice soup, pork ribs, dumbbells and any yakitori are must gets. The badass older Korean women man the grills in the center of the restaurant pumping it out faster than you can eat them. I’ve realized all my activities are centered around food…go figure. When it comes to sight seeing I’d say stay away from Hollywood Boulevard at all costs. The only thing worth doing there would be to catch a comedy show at The Second City; other than that it’s a total tourist trap. The Venice board walk is really touristy too but it’s kind of a must see for all the characters and people watching. You can rent bikes for next to nothing and cruise the bike path which is beautiful and you can take it all the way to the Santa Monica Pier. The Ferris wheel on the Pier is worth the ticket price if you stop at the top. The views are unbeatable. Griffith Park is huge and can make you feel like you’re totally not in LA. Pack a picnic and hang out with locals. If you want to see a full view of the city, then pop up the the Observatory; it’s free and pretty spectacular. Echo Park Lake is a cute little gem on the East side of town. They have little paddle boats you peddle like a bike that you can rent and cruise around the lake in. Hotel pools are also a thing here. So many of us don’t have the luxury of a pool when it gets insanely hot here. So for a small cover or drink minimum you can crash a beautiful roof top pool with your friends.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am truly blessed to have the most supportive family a girl could ask for. My parents have always supported my wild, creative dreams, even when I’m sure it was giving them heart palpitations when I said I wanted to be an actor after college…I’m not gonna lie, I’ve always felt a little bit like the black sheep because my brother has always been so focused and I’m over here flip flopping on what I want to do next. But no matter what path (or many paths) I took to figure out what I truly wanted to do, my parents were behind me 100%. Both of my parents are creative artists at heart and also chased their passions at a young age. My father was a drummer in a band and my mother was a ballet dancer; but as the world kept spinning and obligations kept building, they had to make the choice of finding their success elsewhere. My father had an amazing long career as a commercial Director, conceptualizing spots for some of the biggest house hold names we all know and love. My mother found her calling in teaching, channeling her creativity and compassion towards bettering future generations. But what my parents hard work as given me, is the opportunity to spend more time making my passion my career and not having to settle for security. It’s a privilege that I can not repay; all I can do is give 110% to show them that their sacrifices for me will pay off big time. I can not and will not let them down. An extension of my family is one of my best friends and Director of my web series, Bartley Taylor. We have known each other since preschool, reconnected in college and have been inseparable ever since. We both have always encouraged and assisted each other’s endeavors whenever we can, but my vision for this show would be nothing with out him. He is someone that not only believes in this show but believes in me and our ability to make this happen. From the beginning, he has been right there with me, filming on location, sitting through editing sessions, contacting networks to pitch to; pro bono, simply because he knows in his heart, this is what I’m meant to be doing. He pushes me to keep going when I want to give up, he tells me like it is when something doesn’t meet our standards and always encourages me. I literally wouldn’t be where I am without him. My finance Matthew is my #1 fan and is always right there to hold my hand through the ups and downs of this journey. So many of my close friends who support me by sharing my content and rooting for me. The list goes on and on. I’m blown away with the support system I have, it’s truly remarkable. All I can do is keep doing my best and working towards my goals, but through it all, I hope they all know every contribution, big or small, does not go unnoticed.