Interview: Shortnin Bread Baker Justina Fenton

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Baker Los Angeles

Artisanal LA has become a proving ground for food and drink related concepts that demonstrate a commitment to local, sustainable and handmade philosophy. From April 16 – 17, event organizer Shawna Dawson gathered more than 90 vendors in a vacant space on the top floor of Santa Monica Place. Attendees got their first tastes from tenants at The Market, a 45,000-square-foot, multiple booth venue that opens on May 20, and several other concepts could easily achieve breakout status as well. Each artisan has a story, and we have eight tales to tell, including a pastry chef.

Shortnin Bread founders Justina Fenton and uncle Heath Russell plan to open in Long Beach’s East Village Arts District this summer, specializing in various shortbreads, tarts, brownies, ice cream sandwiches and filled cupcakes. We spoke with Fenton about their plans.

Why shortbread?

Because I have a really, really great recipe for shortbread cookies. It’s to die for, and I love the song. I don’t know, I think it just fits with me and my personality.

What was the space before?

It was a preschool, believe it or not. It’s kind of an interesting building, but it suits our look and it’s the perfect location for us. It’s right on the corner of 3rd & Elm, at 401 East 3rd Street.

When did you start baking for a living professionally?

It actually was at the Fifth Floor in San Francisco, right out of culinary school. I graduated from the California Culinary Academy in October 2000 and I’ve been doing this ever since. I worked for lots of high-end hotels and private clubs and restaurants and decided I wanted to do my own thing. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time. I had the chance with my uncle, who’s the product of a layoff a couple years ago. We teamed up a couple years ago and we’re making it happen.

What was the point you knew you’d be making desserts for a living?

It’s just something that I’ve always known inside. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, it’s weird, it’s just something that’s inside of me.

If people could try just one of your products, what should it be and why?

That’s a hard one.

It’s supposed to be.

Tarts are my thing. I’m a big tart person and I think my tarts are excellent. I think everything I make is excellent. It comes from the heart. I don’t do this for the money, I do this because I love to do it, and I love when people walk up to our booth and it makes them happy.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Had a great time at Artisanal LA and enjoyed many of the artisans, both the repeats and the new ones. Nice seeing you there too.

Great way to cover some highlights of Artisanal LA.I enjoyed this read.

Thanks, Tiffin Unboxed. How’d you like this version of Artisanal LA?

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