Local Brownies Star at the Oscars
Local pastry baker Leigh Lambert is a big hit in the D.C. metropolitan area. But Washingtonians are not the only ones indulging in her tasty treats; Lambert's brownies made a trip to Hollywood.
Distinctive Assets, the public relations company in charge of arranging the swag bags for Oscar nominees, chose Lambert's brownie company, Naughty Bits, to provide some goodies for the sparkling list of Hollywood stars. Lambert was happily taken by surprise upon being chosen.
"I was thrilled when I heard the list of nominees!" Lambert said. "It is hugely exciting to think of Naughty Bits in the hands of the glitterati."
Oscar nominees received the bag, which included Lambert's brownies, hotel packages and other sweet deals, at Sunday's Academy Awards show.
A Washington native, Lambert has always had a love for food in all forms.
She received her master's degree in gastronomy, the study of eating food, through a correspondence program at the University of Adelaide in Australia. Lambert also worked as a food journalist at the Washington Post where she says she was "introduced to some wonderful people on all sides of the [cooking] business."
Naughty Bits, which Lambert runs out of rented kitchen space at Capital City Cheesecake in Takoma Park, sells "deliciously bad brownies." Her website features seven types of brownies that can be ordered online for $21 for a box of 6 brownies or $41 for a box of 12.
Although Lambert has always found interest in all types of cooking, baking is where her heart is.
"I love the precision and detail,"she said. "I love that something liquid and gooey can transform into a cake."
"I don't really know why I'm drawn to brownies. I had long looked for the perfect brownie recipe and finally ended up creating one I thought was it: between cakey and fudgy."
After going on maternity leave from the Post, Lambert decided to stick with her love for baking and create a business from it. Through working at the newspaper, Lambert says that she became "aware of just how much marketing and branding matter in catching the eye of editors and customers."
And customers have taken note of Naughy Bits' branding. Lambert's brownies are not the typical "Double Chocolate Fudge Delight." Instead, she incorporates ingredients that bakers might not think to put in a brownie and comes up with catchy names to match.
"I usually start with a concept or flavor in mind," Lambert explained. "With the Geisha Girl, I wanted Asian influences that would bridge sweet and savory. I wanted the bite of wasabi, but not have it be distracting. I wanted a spark and a contrast."
The Geisha Girl, which is described on the Naughty Bits website as "the unexpected love child of East-meets-West," is made of crystallized ginger, wasabi and sesame snack bits, along with the typical brownie ingredients — a spark and a contrast, indeed.
Besides the gooey brownie mix, Lambert could have run into a stickier situation when her love for baking flourished into a business: Her husband is a dentist!
"Go figure," Lambert said. "We've joked that we should set up dual offices. I get them in; he gets them on the way out."
Still, Lambert continues to create her delicious delights, including the Starlet, which could be the brownie to put Naughty Bits on the baking map.
"I created the Starlet as an addition to the pack the celebs will get because I wanted to sort of top it with a bow, if you will, and make it extra special," she said. The special ingredient in the Starlet is chocolate-covered Pop Rocks.
While getting A-list celebrities to take a bite out of the Starlet is a huge accomplishment, Lambert hopes that the Oscars is just the beginning.
"I hope the Oscar bag placement gives Naughty Bits national exposure and will give us the opportunity to partner with some high-end brands that echo Naughty Bits' sense of luscious fun," Lambert said. "I'd like to take Naughty Bits to unexpected place. It's not the end of your deli lunch, but rather than beginning of an experience."
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