We had the good fortune of connecting with Nika Yazdani and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nika, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Although my parents both studied the sciences (my father is a chemical engineer and my mother is a nurse), I think it was my mother’s talent for cooking, baking, sewing, and other crafts that really helped me to develop my creative side. I never really considered a creative career until after undergrad, when I realized that I was happier throwing dinner parties for friends than I was studying for exams. I loved seeing the joy in their eyes when they tried a new dessert or a flavor pairing they hadn’t thought of before. Sometimes it takes a new presentation of an old favorite to expand the ideas of what dessert can be. During the early days of the pandemic, I gathered friends together online and taught informal classes, where we’d bake a recipe together, share photos, and ask questions. I love learning every day to improve my own skills, and now I had the chance to pass along information to friends and clients. Now, after running Sugar Studio (for 8 years this month!), I am ecstatic to not only have good friends turn into some of my best clients, but I also have clients that have been with me through all the major milestones of their lives– from becoming a couple, to getting engaged, married, and having kids. It’s really a testament to their trust in me to make sure that each celebration has that finishing touch to make it memorable.
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.
As a little kid I used to love watching cooking shows, probably as much as cartoons! I distinctly remember at 10 years old having made an Oreo cheesecake (all by myself) to take to a gathering, and overhearing the other ladies comment to my mother about how she had done such a great job. She told them that it was, in fact, me who made it and that was the first time I remember being so proud of something I made from scratch. That moment planted the seed for the journey I would eventually take later. After undergrad I finally realized that I was happiest in the kitchen, and enrolled in The French Pastry School in Chicago. After having spent years in commercial kitchens in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, I was able to take what I had learned and applied it to running a cottage food operation from my apartment kitchen. Over time I’ve learned that, while it’s great to work from home, I do miss the camaraderie that comes from working alongside others. You don’t feel as lonely and there’s always someone to bounce ideas off of. There’s also less time to focus on R+D because now I have to wear all the hats– admin, social media, finance, and production! Even though it’s a lot more work for me, I absolutely love what I do! I love that I can take my passion for plated desserts and recreate it in a verrine, or a composed dessert in a cup. I can create new and exciting flavor profiles for desserts, or try out a new cake decorating technique. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to pastries, so I’ll spend a few extra minutes here and there if it means making something as flawless as I can. This sometimes means that I can be working into the wee hours of the morning, but seeing my clients’ faces or reading reviews makes it 100% worth it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’ll have to base all of this on pre-covid experiences! 🙂 Not surprisingly, many of my “must see” places revolve around food. As Anthony Bourdain said, “I think food, culture, people, and landscape are all absolutely inseparable” and I think it’s the best way to experience what a city has to offer. First stop, breakfast– absolutely HAVE to go to République!! Get there early to avoid the line, but be sure to order as many pastries as your wallet can allow. My go-to’s are the apple danish, creme brulee bomboloni, and cannele (I’ve been known to order extra pastries just to take home, too! ) For my actual breakfast nothing can beat the croque madame. And don’t forget the French press coffee. Another favorite spot is Bea Bea’s in Burbank for their amazing french toast specials! Get the Hawaii Five-O– you won’t be disappointed. On Wednesdays or Saturdays I love hitting up the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market to check out all the new seasonal produce being offered. In past times it would be a treat to stroll up and down the street and sample all the delicious fruits straight from the farmers and even buy some freshly baked bread. Maybe even pick up some flowers to brighten up my apartment! On my way out of Santa Monica I love to drive by Ocean Blvd and even park my car for a few minutes to look out at the water from above. It’s soothing to gaze at the ocean and breathe in the salty air. It’s a quick stop, but works wonders to bring calm to a busy day. On my way back I’ll head up Wilshire Blvd to Sidecar Doughnuts. Be sure to try their signature huckleberry doughnut, and maybe even pick up a butter + salt doughnut. Your taste buds will thank you. For a late lunch or snack, definitely go to the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA. So many food stalls, so little time! There’s something for everyone– from tacos and burritos to oysters, Filipino food, fresh bread, cheese, and more. Sometimes there’s also live music outside, so grab an agua fresca and stick around a bit! You can even hop across the street for a ride up the Angel’s Flight funicular–it’s a historic landmark of LA that has been in countless films and videos, and gives you a great view of the city. Speaking of great views, if you haven’t yet hiked in Griffith Park, do yourself a favor and head up there soon! Now that the weather is getting cooler it’s perfect for a weekend hike and the views are absolutely breathtaking. If someone is visiting the LA area and has never been to Raffi’s Place in Glendale, it’s a must! Since I’m Persian I take my kabobs very seriously, and they serve some of the best in SoCal. AOC is another favorite and a great way to share small plates with friends– the Spanish fried chicken is absolutely delicious. Osteria la Buca is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in LA, and their house-made ricotta with honey is simply amazing! Aside from catching a film with friends, live music is such a staple of living in LA! If I’m not attending a concert at the Hollywood Bowl or Greek Theater, I’ll sometimes go to the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. It’s a great venue with a really intimate stage, and is a great way to experience live music. With all of the sports teams in LA, going to a game is a great way to hang out with friends, too! My favorites are basketball and baseball, so there’s never a shortage of exciting games to attend! For an after-dinner dessert, there are a few great options. An earl grey milk tea (hot) with boba from Volcano Tea House on Sawtelle, an earl grey milk tea (cold) with boba from Boba Cha Cha on Coldwater, or a seasonal scoop from Wanderlust. If I’m passing by Westwood sometimes I’ll stop by Diddy Riese for an ice cream sandwich– two chocolate chip cookies with espresso chip ice cream. Delicious!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m so thankful to have found the Los Angeles chapter of The Rising Tide Society, where community is valued over competition. It’s about lifting each other up and raising the bar for entrepreneurs as a whole through education– ” a rising tide lifts all boats.” I have made so many meaningful friendships with other creatives, which has, in turn, led to me becoming part of the leadership team for the San Fernando Valley chapter with Holly Gray at the helm. If it wasn’t for The Rising Tide Society I probably wouldn’t have been part of the amazing collaborations and other events in which I’ve had the pleasure of participating over the last 3 years.
Julie Shuford Photography Aurelia D’Amore Photography Jenny Rolapp Photography Laura Ford Photography