Five years ago, Mandy and Chris Butler, a husband and wife team and owners of 50/Fifty dessert and pastry business, decided to trade in the beaches of Naples, Fla., for the Blue Ridge Mountains. And they’re happy they did.
Right now, the Butlers keep busy making wedding cakes in their home professional kitchen in Fletcher, but a retail space is in the works where they can share other culinary confections.
Mandy is the pastry chef. She spent five years working with pastries at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples (also where the couple met) and has worked for one of the top chocolatiers in the country — Norman Love. When she first landed in Asheville, she was employed as a pastry chef at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge before striking out on her own. When Chris isn’t assisting Mandy with managing the business or in the kitchen, he works as a manager at Luella’s Bar-B-Que’s new South Asheville location.
“Chris and I work well as a team. In this business or any business you have to be great together, or it just doesn’t work – especially when you’re married. I have the pastry experience, but he works alongside me in the kitchen on a daily basis. Most weekends we have multiple weddings, so we split up and he goes one way and I go the other,” Mandy says.
They currently have two part-time people helping them out as well because they’ve learned that they can’t go it alone.
Mountain Xpress: Why did you name the business 50/Fifty?
Mandy: We believe in the importance of balance — in flavors and life alike.
Where do you create your desserts?
Mandy: We have a commercial kitchen in the basement of our home that is certified by the Department of Agriculture. It’s about 500 square feet. It’s a double-edged sword — we can go down there anytime we need to, and we can also stay down there as long as we have to.
What has been your most unusual wedding cake request?
Mandy: A specific cake that was a Norwegian wedding tradition – kransekake. I had never made it before, but I researched it, and it turned out very tasty.
What’s been the most difficult dessert you’ve made?
Mandy: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s the most difficult, but it’s definitely the most finicky: They are French macarons. I love to make them, and they are popular for those dessert wedding displays. They are tricky to get just right, but it’s these challenges that help me to grow professionally.
What’s your most essential kitchen tool?
Mandy: With pastry, everything is weighed out, otherwise things just won’t work out. And that is exactly why I love pastry. I’m not good when it comes to just throwing something together and calling it a meal. That’s what Chris does, and he is great at it. Give me a scale, and I am set.
What’s been your greatest challenge to date?
Mandy: Definitely time management. There are so many things that go into running a business and just trying to make that all work; it’s balance. Remember — 50/Fifty. It can be difficult at times, but we’ve made it so far, and we can’t wait to see where our business (and family) goes from here.
What’s your favorite dessert?
Mandy: Ice cream. I would eat it every day if I could. I don’t. Specifically, I love the salted caramel from The Hop.
Chris: Carrot cake with lots of cream cheese frosting. In fact, Mandy makes a reverse carrot cake where there is more icing than cake.
How do you transport your cakes?
Chris: We use shelf paper so that things don’t slide and we assemble cakes on site. We have also learned to have an emergency kit with us — things like a spatula, extra buttercream, tape — you never know what you might need.
What’s the largest cake you’ve made?
Mandy: It was five tiers, and each tier had a different flavor.
Do you have any tried-and-true advice for aspiring bakers out there?
Mandy: You can always add, but you can’t take away.