Pearl & Groove bakery founder, Serena Whitefield
Interviewing the dynamic and brilliant Serena, the brains and serious beauty behind Pearl & Groove. Her café and bakery in Notting Hill is literally my home from home. Everyday I pop in for a coffee, a chat and sometimes a gluten free cake. Over the coffee machine we have become friends. Serena is someone I hugely respect, combining creativity with being a serious business woman all with charm and ease, never flustered and always smiling. Her brand is unique, bright, bold and her cakes are like works of art. Here she tells us exactly whats, what in the world of baking….
Photo by @sara_mck_
Where did Pearl & Groove come from? The name came from my parents, Mum Pearl and Dad Groove. Both have very active healthy lives but Pearl lives on a super healthy refined sugar, dairy and gluten free diet. She turned to this diet after having a horrid cancer scare in 2010 and has been pretty strict ever since, she also believes that plastic is the devil when it comes to cancer so has become very conscious of how her body is affected by everyday experiences. Groove is a chocolate consultant, used to own a factory and produce all sorts of exciting creations and now, in his 80’s he’s still giving advice and eating the best chocolate out there. Between them they grow all their own vegetables, lots of different fruits and try to be as self sufficient as possible.
How did it come about? I have taken their way of life as an inspiration to making Pearl & Groove bakery what it is today. Hopefully you’ll agree but we think it’s the “perfect balance of heath and indulgence.”
I started in 2013 from my London flat. Having been a private chef for a while, I wanted to create something that was super tasty and the health benefits are just a happy coincidence – not the other way around. So as we’ve grown and now have our Portobello Road shop we have been able to bring more and more influences from my parents lifestyle into our every day work. E.g. no plastic, locally sourced, embracing a balanced healthy life and not worrying too much, as long as you feel good, all’s good!
What is unique about your cakes? All of our cakes our gluten free. They are flourless too. We use ground almonds which means they are full of flavour and have a unique texture and taste. We have a unique style, we use – what we call a dollop, on top of the mini loaf cakes, which makes them have a very indulgent satisfying look.
Cakes by @pearlandgroove
How do you come up with the designs and colours? Designs and colours are about characters, for example a chocolate cake has a rich, classic, classy, slightly sexy character. So when decorating a chocolate cake I want to think about these connotations, keeping it traditional, dark chocolate, drizzles of chocolate layered over chocolate shards, berries and rose petals. With a salted caramel cake, this is more chunky, gooey, naughty, modern – so we decorate these ones with popcorn, glitter, honeycomb, brittle and meringue kisses. It’s finding the character in everything and embracing that. The design of the shop – it’s minimalist, white with pops of colour and brightness. It’s a blank canvas for the cakes to do the talking.
The High/Low – Highest career point and lowest So many highs and lots of lows. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and I’ve learnt that trying to ride them out as smoothly as you can is key to staying balanced.
Lets start with a high. Setting it up – creating something brand new and every single thing was done for the first time being in a trial and error stage and having an enthusiastic and green approach to everything. First low in the first 6 months. I over did it – worked all day and all night and any time off I did have I didn’t sleep I went out with friends because I was so excited about my new life. Then I had my first seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy and had my driving licence taken away for a year. This was awful as I did all my deliveries myself and went to the cash and carry myself – everything was done in my little skoda – so I had to think again and shape the business to my needs.
Once I moved on from this and realised that i’m not invincible and started looking after myself a bit – then the highs came again… Realising there was demand for my product. Feeling flattered that people wanted Pearl & Groove in their shops and cafes. Having to employ lovely bakers to help me as I was getting busier and busier. Festivals in the summer of 2015 – these were amazing but exhausting and people – they look fun but they take it out of you for sure. Then I met my amazing friend Flo – she became my business partner while we opened the shop. Worked together for 3 years. She’s been an amazing support and friend to live through the highs and lows of shop life but she followed her heart and went to live in Dubai with her lovely boyfriend Harry. So back to just me, I’ve got a team that I love and everyone works super hard and we’re all getting excited about the future of P&G – there’s so many things we want to do – I would love to do a book soon, YouTube channel, podcast, we want to do pop ups further afield and grow our online business.
So in short the highs and lows are always coming and going but the whole experience is amazing.
What do you you love most about your walk in cafe/bakery? Customers. I met you! Enough said.
Tell us about the design of the cafe/bakery? What’s your inspo? I’m not totally sure on the direct inspo – I didn’t want it to be cute, I didn’t want it to be rustic and I didn’t want it to be super smart. I liked the idea of the stainless steel tables which are a continuation from the kitchen into the shop. Clean with great party vibes. I love Mr Holmes’ instagram in San Fransisco – i’ve never been but I love their branding and their slightly punchy attitude.
You are as stylish as your cakes. Whats your personal style? Oh thanks – sometimes when I’m covered in icing sugar and smelling of cakes I don’t quite feel stylish but I think i’ve got a bit of a 90’s vibe going on slash relaxed Japanese casual (if that makes sense). I love being comfortable. I love a jumpsuit and a two piece, also really like blunt cuts. But now we’re getting a bit warmer – colour now feels right – I think if you’re wearing bright you feel brighter. I wear everything with trainers – hard to get me in a pair of heels.
Where do you get your hair done? Taylor Taylor on Portobello Road.
Recommend some of your favourite restaurants and why. I love Chiswick Fire Station on Chiswick High Road, I don’t live anywhere near there but it’s such a nice spot for a long lunch and loads of rosé. La Bodega Negra in Soho has really tasty cocktails and has a great atmosphere. I recently went to Soane’s Kitchen in Pitzhanger Ealing, run by my friend Alex Head, she has some great events there and has an amazing scheme helping the under privileged build a career in the food industry.
Some of your favourite things (fashiony stuff) Favourite things…..mmm, I love my sagittarius necklace. I’m not a big jewellery wearer – but it never comes off and I love it just being there, it feels so personal which is lovely.
I’ve recently got in to Y.A.S and really like the fit and it ticks the boxes for comfort but cute. So wearing a bit of that at the moment. I bought a coat on Brick Lane about 4 years ago. It was a pretty quick purchase – it doesn’t have a label in it but it’s floor length, navy with a neon pink collar and cuffs, whenever I wear it I feel dressed up and always get some lovely comments. Wish I knew who’d made it, because I would like to wear everything they make.
Your favourite: place, person, book, film, record/album, piece of art and play Favourite place – hoping this is going to be my new home in the countryside, can’t wait to wake up to birds not sirens. Favourite person – I’ve got three. My dog Palaver, she’s perfect. My boyfriend Lewey and my best friend Milly – 3 very different characters but they all make me smile. Favourite book – I wish I could read more but the last book I read was This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, I might be a bit behind the times but it was such an amazing insight to the NHS, doctor life and how truly impressive people are – plus Adam Kay is very funny.
Comfort food – what’s yours? CAKE. (obviously) – Crisps – P&G’s feta, spinach and tomato scones & Chocolate – but I can’t help that, it’s in the genes.
Whats your secret find in Notting Hill? It’s a beautiful new wine shop on Golborne Road called Realale – you can do wine tasting, refill bottles, sit in or take away – definitely worth a visit. Also Soler on Bevington Road has beautiful dresses, summery and gorgeous.
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