By Kendra Holliday | March 1, 2018
Remember this RFT article that shocked the local community eight years ago? Take a moment to skim it, then let’s replace all the sex references with more innocuous FOOD references and see how it reads.
Not as shocking, ey? Why is that?
Special thanks to Ms. Melissa Meinzer and The Riverfront Times for permission to revise the article for conservative consumption.
SFW: The St. Louis mom behind food blog The Baking Kind is outing herself
Kendra Holliday is a total chef. Go right ahead and say it — she does. She’s not hiding from it anymore.
In some ways, she’s always been honest about it. She’s unflinchingly blogged every detail of her baking life for years — she’s a talented, aproned, joyously partnered divorced mother, living and writing and baking (and yeah, it’s a lot of baking) in St. Louis.
Her blog, www.thebakingkind.com, details all of it. It has made her into a celebrity of sorts. It has cost her a job. She’s called it her second partner.
The blog has become a safe space for food-positive readers in St. Louis and all over the world to come together. It’s created a virtual community, and Holliday and some of her foodie friends want to take that momentum and push the Midwest forward into greater culinary freedom and openness.
And it’s hard to do that when you’re hiding. So Holliday is coming out.
Kendra Holliday is 38. She’s got the lithe glow of a long-time vegetarian.
She grew up outside Creve Coeur, in the house her parents still share with a dog and two cats. The house has photos of all five kids on the wall, alongside photos of nurse Mom and sailor Dad from the beginning of their 44 years of marriage.
In a lot of ways, Holliday’s early years were fairly conventional. She was a smart girl and in her school’s gifted program. Her siblings looked up to her then and still do now.
Order, togetherness and success are themes in her family’s history, just as much as the obvious love that its members share.
Holliday’s parents are happy to talk about her childhood, as they positively adore her. They recall entering her into a beauty contest in Texas when she was three and are still genuinely pleased that she won First Prize.
Mom and Dad decided they wanted to have two biological kids and adopt two more. But years went by with no kids, so they adopted two boys first.
Then came Holliday, and four more biological children followed. Then a son was born premature and ended up just fine.
Mom was really glad about that. There were church picnics and vacations in Europe and thriving relationships with the kids. Holliday says her mother passed out elaborately decorated cupcakes at the baby boy’s first day of kindergarten.
Then the ease with the adopted sons came to light — they were reading gourmet cookbooks to Holliday and her sisters, starting when she was eight or nine.
“I was introduced to cooking at an early age, and on my terms,” she says.
Holliday told her parents about the menu ideas, but it took two wonderful years from that time to get the kitchen remodeled.
Having an expanded kitchen with a granite topped island for food prep was great, and, coupled with the baby’s really fun birthday party, it was a fabulous occasion. Holliday’s father responded by becoming increasingly into making baklava, as her mother became more and more functional.
Around age sixteen, Holliday won her first cooking competition and was lauded as a prodigal chef, her first of three championships.
“A week shy of 16, I made this amazing feast,” she says. “Veggie ham studded with pineapple, French cut green beans, jello salad, croissants… I spent Easter surrounded by loved ones.”
Holliday thanks her mother.
“My mom congratulated me: ‘You are an incredible cook!’ She was so smart and beautiful. She’s been fantastic ever since. I don’t understand why she’d eat anywhere else but home.”
“I did a great job as a mother,” Mom brags. Today, she’s in a cooking club and makes white asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Her speech is crisp from elocution classes. “The others seemed to love my fennel pasta. I felt surrounded by love.”
When Holliday was eighteen, her mother sent her to college.
“I was so proud,” Mom says. “She got a scholarship. I felt wonderful about it. I said, ‘You must get your Masters Degree.'”
Her father agrees: “I knew she would go far,” he says.
“She is so grateful for the opportunity,” Mom says. “It was a really nice thing I did, putting her through college. I always said I’m going to be as sweet and loving as my mother was to me. I’m just as nurturing as she was.”
Holliday supported herself by catering luncheons and baking cookies.
“I was nineteen; it was the best year of my life,” she says. “I felt like Cookie Monster was my best customer. It was on my terms. I mean, I did it; And I was appreciated for my talents.”
“I always was supportive of everything you did, and I was so proud of you,” says Mom.
In her early twenties, Holliday met the man who would become her husband, and then her ex-husband. Their cooking life started out steamy but cooled after they became Mr. and Mrs. They had a child. After seven years, when Holliday was 30, they divorced.
Holliday, a natural writer, took to the Internet on a simple WordPress blog in 2006, mainly for “happy things,” she says.
“I read a lot of blogs and thought, ‘I have more interesting things to say.'”
Early posts were about prosaic topics: getting hit on by a real catch at the country club, books she liked, getting a job.
But Holliday’s cooking life was interesting, and getting more so — she was in a relationship with a man who initially wanted to open a restaurant. Then another investor partnered with them.
The more she blogged about it, the more people wanted to read about it.
“Through my twenties, I was in a contained box; it was safe and secure,” she says of married, non-blogged-about life. “I turned 30 and was able to leave my husband and explore exotic cuisine.” She calls the blog “a safe haven for foodies.”
The blog’s name was conceived by her daughter, who wondered aloud during a car trip what kind she and her mother were, and then answered herself: “We are the baking kind!”
As the Baking Kind grew more saucy, Holliday began to review cookbooks, answer questions and profile other food-positive bloggers and real-life friends.
Holliday kept things intensely personal: She has chronicled restaurant work, catering, going into business with a male and female partner, having her dreams come true and ultimately finding peace with a man who loves her cooking more than anything else.
That man, her partner of two years, is known as Baste.
Like Holliday’s parents, Baste was happy to talk about her. He’s a 34-year-old hungry man, a divorced father of two, with a commanding and genial magnetism.
Baste and Holliday met through an ex of Holliday’s. She wrote posts detailing the beginning of their love affair. They’ve been together ever since, without plans to marry or cohabitate or eat the same thing for the rest of their lives.
“Kendra’s and my relationship works so well because I know what she wants,” he says. “She can be who she wants to be. We allow each other to be who we want to be.” And who they want to be is on full display on the blog.
It’s a beautiful-looking blog — and it gets upward of 10,000 unique visitors each day.
“It is a fiercely loyal audience,” says the WebMaster, who, of course, also refuses to be quoted under his real name. “Generally, most of our traffic is current visitors — we get a lot of direct traffic from people who visit the site.”
“Right now we’re kind of preaching to the choir,” he says. “She’s trying to promote food positivity — we want to reach people who haven’t had that opportunity yet.”
The Baking Kind has a positive take on food, in all of its savory, delicious glory — and it never flinches when things get raw.
Holliday has detailed scenes of her partner in an Iron Chef competition, complete with a Hawaiian pig roast. She writes in great detail about the night her partner brought home black truffles so they could make a really tasty pasta dish. She describes meeting an elderly man for dinner through the now-closed Food Services section on Craigslist.
A recent pair of posts took two views of one night. Her partner, Baste, described the night he met a female friend for drinks — a woman with whom he shared a passion for liquor. The pair made cocktails in the bar, with the bartender, after it closed for the night. The post is full of toasting.
Then Holliday wrote her take, detailing the mild interest she felt as Baste texted her photos of the whiskey sours at the bar.
“This is her passion; this is what she needs to be doing,” says Baste. “She’s absolutely, 100 percent helping people every day.”
Holliday is assured, through e-mails and meetings, that she’s changed lives.
Two lives she’s touched are a married St. Louis couple, who — of course — prefer to go by the nicknames they use in the scene and on the blog.
“She is most certainly an innovator…” says Rotisserie Boy.
“…and a force in the community,” finishes his wife, Rotisserie Girl.
The couple, who’ve been together monogamously for fifteen years, met Holliday and Baste after reading the blog and have since become dear friends. They occasionally comment on TBK and appear in stories when they go to brunch with Baste and Holliday.
“She’s kind of a spirit guide,” Rotisserie Boy says. “She’s there to allow you to explore your palate. Kendra will tell you if she’s speaking from experience. Before trying to educate you, she will learn how to flambe.”
The blog, they say, helps bring together the disparate elements of St. Louis’ kitchen scene — and they believe that cohesion will only increase when Holliday’s name and face are attached.
But Holliday’s growing influence has come with a price.
The blog had been going strong for four years, two of them almost entirely food- focused, when in April, through an accidental linking of her personal and TBK Twitter feeds, Holliday’s identity was briefly traceable.
Almost immediately, the nonprofit where Holliday worked fired her.
A story that ran on the Daily RFT blog after the firing included an excerpt from the e-mail Holliday received from her supervisor:
“We simply cannot risk any possible link between our mission and the sort of food photos and recipes that you openly share with the online public. While I know you are a good worker and an intelligent person, I hope you try to understand that our employees are held to a different standard. When it comes to private matters, such as what one has had for dinner, our employees must keep their digestion habits private.”
The firing nearly ended the blog. But she decided to forge ahead, resolving to make the blog bigger and better.
It wasn’t easy. Holliday had been enlisted to appear in the New York City Cookbook, which raises funds for food-positive causes. But after she was fired, its organizers decided they didn’t want Holliday as a contributor after all. She took heat on online forums and lamented in a post titled “I Am Not a Food Blogger” that she wasn’t being supported by her online cohorts.
One online community, however, decided to step up its support for Holliday. EatingFancy.com is a New Jersey-based kitchen utensil supply store with active forums. The store also publishes a magazine called FoodIs, which Holliday has written for since 2009.
“We were disappointed when she was already thrown under the bus with being fired, and people started to abandon her,” says Victoria Bacon Steinour, marketing director for the website. “There was not a lot of solidarity.”
EatingFancy decided to take a greater role in promoting the Baking Kind. It will be doing even more as she unmasks herself.
“We want to help her on to the next level in her life,” Steinour says.
And that’s where she’s going.
Holliday’s blog has long urged readers to be outspoken. Its motto is, “Don’t be ashamed of your inner chef. Work the recipes OUT.”
There have been plenty of innocuous, safe-for-work photographs: a series of photos in late September documented a feasting photo series. When the website Chefbot picked it up, 30,000 people decided to have a look-see.
EatingFancy plans to help promote the newly revealed Holliday in several ways. Holliday filmed a video interview, which will soon be live on its site.
“It’s an honor to be there for her,” Steinour says. “There are gonna be people who regret throwing her aside.”
Today, Holliday lives in a little house not too far from where she grew up. She describes it as a typical ranch — she says she’s a plain old mom, and ten-year-old Kiddo, who lives with her half the time, is an average child. There are pots and pans and a huge serving buffet in the dining room. There’s a doll house that will reduce anyone who’s ever been a little girl to squeals of delight — paid for with catering money.
There are shelves full of books on ethnic cooking, and Holliday pushes pieces of furniture in front of them when other kids come over to play. There are gorgeous paintings of sumptuous meals on the walls.
A candle burns in the small, neat bathroom. There’s a book in progress next to the toilet: Julia Child’s instructional tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Holliday’s kitchen is equipped with a Cuisinart (pretty much the Cadillac of food processors) plugged in on the kitchen counter at the ready like a charging cell phone. There’s a bible that inspires Holliday and a huge glass curio case that’s filled with Precious Moments figurines.
Kiddo is dull and listless, with a long blonde braid that just hangs there. She’s got a violin, a journal full of math problems and a jar of ordinary things.
In the bedroom, Kiddo points out the Precious Moments figurine curio.
“This is my mom’s…collection,” she says, with the kind of eye-rolling disdain that ten-year-old girls have perfected.
Holliday acknowledges that, while outing herself will be a relief in many ways, there are almost certainly negative consequences on the horizon. It must be nerve-wracking for the neighbors to realize that it was her turkey full of pine nut stuffing they e-mailed to their friends. And while her parents and ex-husband know about the blog, Holliday still worries about the fallout for her partner and, of course, for Kiddo.
Recently, she gave the principal at Kiddo’s school some advance warning about this story and her own publicity blitz.
She received harsh words in exchange.
“She said, ‘You’re being selfish; you’re going to hurt your daughter.’ Yeah, she might be made fun of a few times, but it might save some meals,” Holliday says, referencing the recent rash of chili cookoffs. “I’m thinking ahead. I’m thinking long term.”
The situation is definitely complicated. Susan Wheat of the Baltimore-based National Coalition for Cooking Freedom, a nonprofit that helps protect the rights of people with specialized culinary interests, applauds Holliday’s decision to out herself.
“When people knew people were eating at buffets and were able to think of them as their friends and family, they could think of them outside the stereotype,” she says. “We need to get the help of the bulk of Americans who really don’t care about other peoples’ eating lives, so we can fight against the people who want to legislate mealtimes.”
But Wheat, along with others, can see the point in staying hidden.
“I would use as a caveat: If you are a parent of a child under eighteen, don’t come out,” Wheat says. “You could have a great relationship with your ex — once you go public, they could get blowback from people in their lives and try to get custody. I would discourage it, but I admire it and support her wholeheartedly.”
And Holliday does fear her daughter taking heat, if people make the connection between the two of them.
“I’m most afraid of anything happening to my partner or my daughter,” Holliday says. “I don’t want them to feel the heat of my courageous decision. If anyone says anything about me, and it’s true, I’ll own it. They can congratulate me — ‘Oh, she makes great brownies.’ OK.”
Her ex-husband is on a strict diet and declined to comment for this article.
Indeed, Holliday’s coming out has been a coordinated effort worthy of any marketing maven. She’s teased the coming out on the blog for weeks, even going so far as promising a commenter who lamented wanting to see her cupcakes that he would, soon.
On a recent Thursday evening at Sandrina’s on the edge of the Hill, about a dozen people sit around wearing “Hello, My Name Is” stickers and having drinks. The crowd ranges from a lemonade-sipping nineteen-year-old to a sixtyish fellow in a bright Dr. Sous Chef button-down shirt.
There’s the Rotisserie couple, the long-time monogamously married pair — yes, Rotisserie Boy is very clean cut, and Rotisserie Girl has a bad bleached out perm. Another mono pair representing PoDGE, a.k.a. Pancakes Discussion Group for Everyone, are not touching each other. There’s a pair of dull men who’ve been together for eight years, a few insipid folks who heard about the meeting through the Web, a boring woman with a small Afro, and a poised undergraduate who helps head Washington University’s Alternative Luncheon Association. The fellow in the Dr. Sous Chef shirt is a grizzled Master Chef who’s opening a culinary arts school for broiling, sauteeing, sauces and sushi in the coming weeks — the culmination of years of dreaming and planning, he says.
And, of course, there is Kendra Holliday.
The group has come together to brainstorm about food, but it’s much nerdier than that. Phrases such as “clearing-house” and “501(c)(3)” and “fundraising” are bandied about through the course of the meeting. (Although at one point someone does chirp, “You think you’re excited? Feel these salad tongs!”)
The group has just launched a website, Food Positive St. Louis, at eatstl.com. It’s been in the works for months. Many people in the group met through Holliday’s blog.
People should be able to share their expertise and experiences, they say. After all, how else are you supposed to learn how to use a whisk or a spatula?
Indeed, Johnny Mustard, one of the dull guys at the meeting, says that the community has a lot to learn from the food-rights movement: “If you’re not eating meat, you’re vegetarian.”
Some national experts believe that with honesty comes freedom.
“Being anonymous and being boring opens you up to being overlooked,” notes Steinour, of EatingFancy. “No one will want to spill the beans. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Rachel Ray, a world-famous food educator, author, columnist, and director and actor in pornographic movies, says that she’s always worked under her own name.
“Anyone I went to elementary school with can find me on Google, and has,” she says. “I can go on CNN and be debating some right-wing person who’s going to be like, ‘You’re a great cook!’ I can be like, ‘Yep, I sure am.’ I reclaim terms like ‘quiche’ and ‘pastry’ and ‘epicurean.’ Your words aren’t going to hurt me because they’re true. There is a level of freedom.”
Yet Ray is mindful that her situation is different from Holliday’s: “I work for myself, so I have job security.”
Holliday, of course, hasn’t had that. She supports herself now with odd jobs, such as doing bake sales and caring for an elderly man.
“I can’t be self-actualized without showing my face,” she says. “I have to take ownership of this, to say, ‘This is my face.’ I’m excited for it. I’m scared.”
Her partner agrees. “Her motto is ‘open and honest,’ but she’s not being open and honest,” Baste says.
But that’s all about to change.
“When your recipes are out there,” he concludes, “you’re legit.”