08 Jul 2020

Bakers Against Racism: A Q+A with HBS Restaurant Associate’s Andria Leu

Andria Leu

by Shona Simkin

Andria Leu, a baker with HBS Restaurant Associates, cooked up a storm for Bakers Against Racism, a worldwide virtual bake sale held June 15-20. We spoke with Leu about her experience and inspiration, and managed to score her favorite recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

How long have you worked at HBS?
I started at HBS when I was 19, on an undergraduate internship. After I graduated, I worked at HBS for a year, then left for two years to explore other career options, and came back five years ago.

How did you learn about Bakers Against Racism?
One of my good friends from college posted about it on Instagram. I thought it was a great idea and emailed the organization for information. They sent a very detailed PDF about how to take payment and orders, since it was open to both professional and home bakers. I selected what I was going to sell and what organization I wanted the proceeds to go to.

What did you bake, and how much money did you raise?
I decided to offer three items priced at $20 each to keep it simple: a six-inch blueberry coffee cake, a dozen chocolate chip cookies, and a half dozen chocolate cupcakes.

I ended up baking 96 cookies, about two dozen cupcakes, and seven coffee cakes. People also donated additional money, so in the end I donated $510. It was amazing! It started at $200, and I really wanted to get to $300—to get more than $500 was incredible!

What organization received your proceeds?
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). I think what they do is so important. Beyond all the hard work they do to free people who have been wrongly incarcerated, they also do amazing research and education on criminal justice reform and racial justice.

How did you learn about EJI?
On Blackout Tuesday I wanted to donate to organizations doing racial justice work, so I spent time researching and reading. I learned about EJI, and their work was mentioned in 13th [a documentary film that explores the "intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States”] which I watched soon after. Then I watched the movie Just Mercy and realized that it was about Bryan Stevenson and his founding of the EJI. I was blown away by the movie and did more research into his organization. The work they do is just incredible.

Would you consider the items you baked to be your specialties?
Yes. Whenever there’s a family or friend birthday, I get requests for chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream, so I knew there would be people who would buy the cupcakes if I made them. I made the cookies because they’re my favorite recipe.

Do you also cook a lot at home?
I do. At work I only bake, so at home I cook a lot for myself and my husband. I really like Asian flavors, so we cook a lot of Korean and Chinese dishes. But I also like Italian too!

What has your schedule been like since the pandemic, and what has work been like?
It’s so different; I'm only working a few days a week. I normally bake for Executive Education programs' breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets. I’d make a new item every day for each different program. That takes a lot of creativity and time, and I really enjoy that. Right now I’m making more basic things like breakfast pastries. I definitely miss being busy and making complicated plated desserts.

In the beginning, I was baking a lot more and experimenting at home because I missed it, but as the months have gone on that’s lost its luster. The bake sale made me feel alive again, like I was back doing what I love—and it was for such a great cause. I felt like I could do something I really enjoyed and help out in some way, so it was a win-win.

Do you have past experience with social and racial justice issues?
This was my first. Even though I'm not a white American, it's been a real awakening. I was born in Sri Lanka and have definitely dealt with issues on my own—I knew things weren’t right. The more I learn the more I'm just shocked by how much I didn't know, and how unjust and crazy this system is. Now that I've seen it I can't unsee it. I want things to get better and everyone has to do their part. I hope maybe people reading this might see that there are many ways to help.

Andria Leu’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

10 tablespoons butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 extra large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

-Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, making sure to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl
-Slowly add egg and vanilla, mix until fully incorporated
-Mix dry ingredients in bowl and add to butter mixture in 3-4 additions
-Add chocolate chips, mix until just combined
-Scoop and bake at 350’F for 12-14 minutes

Yield:18-24 cookies depending on scoop size

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