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Local man turns cooking passion into business

BY JULIA JESSEN | FEBRUARY 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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David Gustafson knows a good croissant when he tastes one. He would never mistake a bagged mix, formed to look like a croissant, for the real thing with its inner spinning layers that pull apart and pockets of butter and steam nestled in the dough.

"Originally, I just really wanted to be able to make one of those," he said. "When I made my first successful batch, after a few tries, it seemed like something I would be really happy to sell."

Gustafson started his business, the Golden Carrot Bakery, to turn his hobby of baking into a profession.

He started by selling cakes to restaurants and businesses, and in August 2001, he began the Gourmet Club, a service in which he delivers his pastries, including croissants, scones, and muffins, to his clients' doorsteps.

"There's this theme I get in a lot of the responses that it's the perfect Iowa City business," Gustafson said. "I've heard Iowa City called the Athens of the Midwest, and maybe here we just like nifty things, I guess."

Maxwell Ostby, a friend and client of Gustafson, said his family, including his four kids, loves the pastries, especially the croissants.

"There's just this perfect crust on the outside and on the inside, it looks like a crashing wave — just this spiral of dough," Ostby said. "It's just soft and delicious and buttery and insanely good."

The University of Iowa graduate with a degree in French said he always loved eating, but it was hard for him to find the perfect cakes and pastries with satisfying ingredients. This preference for substance rather than a sugar rush probably comes from growing up with his father's cooking.

"He's not really fancy — it's just whatever he makes is really good even if it's a simple item," he said. "Maybe it's my bias because he's my dad, but it just tastes better than anybody else's."

Gustafson's friend and his former manager from his time working as a cook at Shakespeare's Pub & Grill, Christina Sjogren, said Gustafson is very hardworking and dedicated to his career.

"Just from knowing Gus, I know his baking is very personal to him," she said. "It's something that he spent a lot of time on and really developed his skills at."

Gustafson tries to be in bed by 4 p.m., so he can get up at midnight, plan out his day, spend some quiet time with his thoughts, and then spend four hours tearing up his kitchen in a flurry of baking.

"That's where a lot of the acceptance and deep breaths come in, when you're trying to bake a hundred pastries before 5:30 in the morning," he said.

Eventually, the baker hopes to have a store in which he could offer coffee and sandwiches in addition to his pastries and cakes and create employment for more people.

"The little notes I get when people first start up that say, 'Wow the chocolate croissants are amazing' [are] a lot of positive reinforcement that I think anyone would enjoy having a hand in," Gustafson said.


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