We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan Kolman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Susan, what role has risk played in your life or career?

Most of us think of risk as being scary and maybe even dangerous, but in reality taking risks gives us opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Looking back, so many of my decisions could be viewed as risky, but for me, each one moved me forward and gave me chances to explore and develop my passions and confidence. It’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve changed careers multiple times. My last big switch was leaving behind an executive role in a major international consulting firm to spend a year in pastry school training to become a pastry chef. It’s a long story, but stands as one of my best decisions ever, even though leaving a 6 figure income for minimum wage seems crazy to many people. The chef who trained me used to tell us an old adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Turns out to be true – being in the kitchen is my happy place and helping wedding couples have the spectacular wedding day of their dreams fills my heart. When I first started pastry school, I never anticipated starting my own business and focusing on the art of cake design. Each step along the journey was and remains an evolutionary process driven by my insatiable passion for my craft and the joy of putting smiles on the faces of the people who enjoy my creations. Risky – for sure – but there’s no quit in me.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

When I left corporate America to train as a pastry chef, I remember seeing photos of elaborate dessert designs and thinking “please don’t make me do that – I just want to bake a really good pie.” Gratefully, pastry school and the generosity of many pastry chef mentors thereafter, ignited my curiosity and challenged my thinking and skill development. The funny thing is I can’t draw a straight line, but set me loose in a kitchen and the magic begins.

My cake design business focuses on custom, bespoke creations. For me, that requires a broad range of skills in using a variety of materials to develop fresh approaches to each project. I am constantly reading and researching techniques, networking with other cake designers, and building my repertoire of skills. Creative inspiration comes from so many places – taking a walk and looking at the colors and shapes of our beautiful mountains and desert plants, listening to music, attending live performances and art exhibits. Sometimes ideas come quickly and easily; other times I have to wait and let ideas percolate. The most fun and rewarding projects are the truly collaborative ones when a client comes with a vague sense of what they want and we work together to flesh out and fine tune the design and then they trust me to bring it to life in cake.

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?
My most favorite and must see magical treasure in Phoenix is the Heard Museum. Focusing on American Indian art and culture, especially featuring the native peoples of the Southwest, the Heard offers a wide variety of native art exhibits and live cultural performances. Visitors coming to Phoenix in February can watch the incredible athleticism, artistry, and colorful costumes when the Heard hosts the International Hoop Dance competition. The first weekend of March is the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market which brings over 600 juried artists to the museum campus showcasing a wide variety of artistic expression and mediums. Throughout the rest of the year, the Heard offers changing exhibits and other interactive festivals, and educational experiences.

Following the Heard Museum, visitors must see the Desert Botanical Garden to experience and learn about our Sonoran desert and take in the beauty of our home surroundings. The Musical Instrument Museum is also amazing and their concert venue is a definite must.

The food scene in Phoenix has exploded in recent years. Great ethnic food of all nations is easily found across our valley. A visit to a local farmers market is a great way to explore and meet local producers. So many local food ventures including local coffee roasters, bean to bar chocolatiers, nationally renowned pizza, and more.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many people have supported my journey and influenced my choices.

My husband Mark is my biggest cheerleader and sounding board. I couldn’t do what i do without his support, encouragement, and his love of SWEETS!

Numerous chefs have trained and guided me along the way, starting with Chef Mark Ramsdell my pastry school instructor, I will always be grateful to Chef Mark and to Chef Anil Rohira, who along with a group of world renowned pastry chefs mentored my growth as a pastry professional . During the challenges of COVID, I honed my skills in creating sugar flowers under the guidance of Suzanne Esper, whose skillful teaching and gorgeous work has significantly influenced my creative process and approach to cake design.

Website: https://www.artfulsweetsaz.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/artfulsweetsaz

Linkedin: Susan Kolman

Facebook: www.facebook.com/artfulsweetsaz

Image Credits
By Kristen Marie Suzy Goodrick Chantel Breanne

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.