Grotsky's interest in pastry began in the late
As a teen, he started working at Carousel Cakes, a local bakery that has since catapulted to stardom after two of its cakes were chosen for Oprah's coveted "Oprah's Favorite Things" list several years in a row (Red Velvet cake and Memphis cake, if you are getting ready to make an online order). Grotsky started out there before the glitz and
"There was no online stuff, no internet, nothing," he says.
That was a while ago. Grotsky returned to New York to finish his studies and landed several prestigious positions throughout the Northeast after he was done. But when his first marriage ended in divorce, he again thought of the Sunshine State.
"I was ready for a change, and I thought of South Florida."
In 2003, he got a job at the Boca Resort as p.m. Pastry Supervisor. From there, he worked in several elite hotels and restaurants, the last of which was the Hard Rock Cafe, where he was
"I wasn't really inspired to do another executive pastry chef [job] somewhere. I really didn't want it anymore. It's a hard place to work, and the corporate life, during those years, it's different. You didn't know if you're going to have your job, you know, the next day. So I kind of felt, at that point, I was ready to move on. I didn't know what I was going to do, but I was ready to move on."
He considered teaching and looked into a position at West Palm Beach's Lincoln Culinary Institute but ultimately decided not to go that route.
"It didn't feel right for me. Students don't show up and you gotta write them up. You lose focus on what you want to do — you want to do the pastries!"
Which is when he decided to start something on his own.
His wife, a former resident of Plantation, told him she had heard something about a farmers market starting there. Grotsky went to check it out and found a produce tent, a honey guy, a hummus guy, and nothing else. This was before the farmers market had become vogue in South Florida, but he knew it had potential and did not waste time in getting his licensing taken care of so he could sell.
"I didn't know anything about markets. I was always in hotels and restaurants," Grotsky admits.
There was one problem: He needed a place to bake. Actually, there were two problems: He needed a place to bake, and he needed to make money fast.
"I found myself thinking, 'What am I going to do here?' I have no money, my wife was laid off, we had two kids — my son was 4 at the time, my daughter was 2 —
Grotsky is telling me this story inside the tiny storefront he shares with a family-run pie company. We sit at the sole round bistro table with a chipped mosaic top. He is restless in the chair that is too small for his tall, lean frame.
"What did you do next?" I ask. I am quickly learning Grotsky isn't only a talented pastry chef, but he's an inventive problem-solver who doesn't quit.
"On a whim, I entered [a neighborhood bakery] and asked the owner if I could rent time in his kitchen."
The owner agreed.
Grotsky began with five products: Rice Krispie treats, cookies (snickerdoodles and raspberry oatmeal thumbprints), banana bread, and orange bread. It was July 4, 2010. He remembers the date precisely.
"It was summertime, a holiday. I knew it was going to be slow, you know, but people came out, and I did okay! It's funny because I took pictures of customers back then, and I look now and it's the same guys still coming!"
Loyalty comes with quality, and Grotsky has quality down pat.
"I am growing my customer base one by one, whether I sell one cookie or a cake for 300. Everyone gets the same attention. That person buying that one cookie can turn into a longtime customer."
Today he offers over 50 items, all made by him (the original five items remain). He formed a co-op with some of the other
"We wanted to run the markets from a vendor's point of view. We're in it for the long haul. We want to build it up, build a customer relationship."
He also found his own place to bake: a cozy spot in a quiet Davie strip mall. He also rebranded last summer, switching from his original company name, Cookielicious (a name selected by his kids), to JW Pastry.
"Cookielicious is a catchy name, but I do so much more."
Ask what his best-selling item is and you'll get a pensive pause.
"A lot of breakfast pastries: croissants, apple-stuffed brioche, Danishes, chocolate-almond croissants. I started doing pumpkin-almond croissants for the season, you know; they love it. And
The croissant is light and flaky — none of the heavy, doughy crescents lots of people try to sell off as authentic. Pick it up and there are major crackling sound effects, a sign of the real deal. The inside is visibly layered with butter. It's airy and crisp and plays tricks on you because before you know it, the entire thing is gone.
Grotsky offers baguettes, mixed-grain ciabatta, walnut-raisin bread,
He now splits his time between baking at his shop in Davie, where he has all the Farmers Market offerings as well as more delicate items that require refrigeration (tarts, rice pudding, cheesecake, and bread
"I also make cakes," Grotsky adds with a nervous laugh. "Whatever people want!"
"Ah, seven years and no menu!" he says. "That's really one of the things
Which means he offers pretty much everything you can think of.
On top of managing numerous markets, baking a vast array of pastries (and breads) on his own ("I do everything myself; it's just kind of easier that way"), and helping to care for his children (now 9, 7, and 5), Grotsky tells me he has just recently picked up an account with none other than Nordstroms.
"I wholesale to them. I deliver every morning over there."
He's also experimenting with online purchasing (pick-up at the store, for now).
"I really enjoy doing everything, you know, because it gives me so much to do so much. I've been in the industry for so long, and I remember wherever I was and what I did and how it got better and how I made it better. I remember all those things. And that is in everything I make — twenty years and all the good things."
JW Pastry. Tuesday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 5665 S. University Dr., Davie; (954) 251-4243; jwpastry.com