2021 Cook of the Year: Amanda Mack
Feeding her community in more ways than one.
When a bakery is named after piecrust, it has to be good. It took Amanda Mack, owner of Baltimore's Crust by Mack, two years to replicate her grandmother Yvonne Roy's buttery, flaky version. Roy taught her how to bake, but she's a tough critic. When she tried the crust Mack had toiled over, Roy simply said: "It's good." "You would have thought I had won the lottery," Mack says. "If it's good to her, then it's great to everybody else."
And it is. In 2018, Mack started selling pastries at pop-ups, coffee shops, and events. Her signature crust—used in tarts, sprinkle-covered pastries, and all kinds of pies—earned a devoted following and helped her raise thousands of dollars for local organizations and charities. Around Baltimore, she became known as much for supporting the community as for her strawberry-basil hand pies. "I'm intentional about raising money for Black-owned businesses and minorities," she says. "My customers are of all races and ethnicities, and they want to support me in supporting others."
Last summer, Mack's first retail shop opened in Whitehall Market, a food hall in Hampden. The welcoming space is mostly run by her family, and she wants customers to feel like they are walking into her home. "You don't know what people are carrying. We want to make sure that this is a bright spot on their journey," she says.
In addition to supporting and raising money to help social- and food-justice organizations, Mack opened Layers, a space where she can host mentoring programs and events for other entrepreneurs. "I know firsthand what it's like to come from a situation where you don't have very much. I wanted to provide a platform for people like me who have a dream and a vision but just need some help getting there."