The Buttered Tin Chef/Owner
You may have sampled Alicia Hinze’s delectable desserts at the 2018 James Beard Foundation Gala. Alicia put on full display the French pastry training she received at Le Cordon Bleu’s Patisserie and Baking Program. Her skills creating elaborate wedding desserts and cake decorations have led to work for Martha Stewart’s Wedding Magazines’ Contributing Editor Wendy Kromer. The Food Network invited her to compete on its hit show Cupcake Wars several times with competition-winning results.
Alicia opened The Buttered Tin in 2013 in Lowertown, St. Paul, Minnesota. This neighborhood gem of a bakery and café has been named “Best Breakfast Spot” by City Pages, “Best Pie in 50 States” by Mental Floss, and the list goes on.
Alicia loves spreading happiness through food, while actively demonstrating her love of the planet. She places an emphasis on sustainability in all phases of her restaurant operations. The Buttered Tin recycles and collects organics in-house, and exclusively provides compostable and recyclable take-out ware. A proud fellowship student in the inaugural James Beard Foundation’s Women Entrepreneurial Leadership program, Alicia strongly values supporting her staff and other women in the restaurant industry.
I am the owner and Pastry Chef of The Buttered Tin, a bakery/restaurant in St. Paul, MN. Before opening The Buttered Tin, I almost exclusively worked as a wedding/specialty cake decorator and was known for being on Cupcake Wars on the Food Network a couple of times. Opening The Buttered Tin gave me the opportunity to not only continue making and decorating cakes but to make, from scratch of course, all my other favorite things I love so much such as pies, biscuits, breads, etc. and to create a culinary menu which was completely new to me. Being creative is and always has been a big part of who I am.
But what The Buttered Tin has really afforded me is a place to live out my values and meet people, namely our staff, who share those same values. Food makes people gather and to offer a place where people can sit, eat good food and spend time with the people they love means everything. I feel such pride in the sense of community that we have at our restaurant. Making fresh food from local farms and from farms that treat animals humanely is one another value that we take seriously. We have a list of the farms we use on our website so that our guests can always know where their food comes from. Also, using sustainable packaging for our products and making sure everything is either truly recyclable and/or compostable is another value that is important to us. We compost here at The Buttered Tin and estimate that we divert approximately 42,000 pounds of waste to compost a year that would have otherwise been trash. And lastly, but certainly not least we use the term “sustainability” to also regard our work environment. We are a place that continually strives to make this restaurant a “career” rather than a “job” by offering the best pay possible, benefits, retirement plans, continual training and a positive, respectful, welcoming environment.
I never imagined the ways in which opening The Buttered Tin would make me grow but I am so proud of what it has turned out to be and cannot wait to see what the future holds.Well, my mother would call me a “pit bull”, haha. I like to use the term “tenacious”. Once I have set my sight on something or determined a goal, I am extremely focused. And because I love to work I do what it takes to achieve goals. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I have accomplished every goal I have ever set out to do. There are just some goals that either don’t work out and you have to move to the next or you have to put on the back burner. I am always looking forward to the next goal.
Well, my mother would call me a “pit bull”, haha. I like to use the term “tenacious”. Once I have set my sight on something or determined a goal, I am extremely focused. And because I love to work I do what it takes to achieve goals. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that I have accomplished every goal I have ever set out to do. There are just some goals that either don’t work out and you have to move to the next or you have to put on the back burner. I am always looking forward to the next goal.
I would love to expand The Buttered Tin to several locations. I love the idea of my children growing up in the restaurant and seeing their mommy not only baking and making delicious/beautiful food, but seeing what a cheerful environment that is and how it makes people so happy.
Two things that I am extremely proud of are 1. I have had two children while running my restaurant of about 30-35 employees. I am proud because I have figured out a way (most days) to balance the two. Then 2. I never expected to be noticed by the James Beard Foundation, so to be honored by being asked to be a featured Pastry Chef at the James Beard Foundation Gala in 2018 just blew my mind. I was so honored and thus far has been the pinnacle of my career.
Not too long after I opened The Buttered Tin I found out that I had cervical cancer. I was fortunate in the sense that we were very busy and so I did not have much time to think about it too much and also because it wasn’t aggressive. I had to be away from the restaurant a lot for surgeries and countless doctor appointments. It was difficult being away for so long and also dealing with that while running a restaurant. The entire experience really showed me that my team is SO wonderful, talented and has a deep connection with The Buttered Tin that when I came back it was like we didn’t skip a beat.
How did you get into the industry?
When I was in my mid to late 20’s I was working in corporate America. I knew that this wasn’t going to be my future. I really enjoy traveling and learning other cultures. I also really enjoyed baking (and making all things sweet) and had always wanted to go to pastry school to truly learn it as a skill. I decided that I would leave my corporate job, go to pastry school and with that degree I could travel anywhere in the world to work. While in pastry school I realized that I really wanted to have my own bakery. After working at several places throughout the Twin Cities, feeling like I had really learned a lot of skills and still very much loved being a pastry chef I decided to open my own place.
Although my first job took me to Ohio (ha!, although I did very much love it), I have been in Minnesota ever since.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
I think that the reason people keep coming back to The Buttered Tin is because they know how important the quality of our food is to us. We choose farms with good/humane practices, the people who prepare the food/bakery are extremely skilled and the people who greet you when you walk in make you feel like home. Also, we have a sunny, bright atmosphere that lends to being happy and comfortable and that is what the experience is all about; enjoying delicious food with the people you love.
How do you motivate others?
I feel that I motivate my staff by being there for them and guiding them but ultimately letting them take the reigns, make their own decisions and understand that they have the ability to do it themselves. There is nothing better for growing as a person than to have to overcome challenges and have faith in yourself that you can indeed overcome them.
And I also believe that I have a story very similar to others in the way that I am a “career changer”. I believe that many people want to leave what they are doing and find what they are passionate about. Because I did just that, I believe I motivate others to do what they love.
Career advice to those in your industry?
The best advice I can give is to take people up on offers to help. If someone offers to connect you to someone, or sit down and discuss something or anything, take them up on it! They wouldn’t offer to help if they didn’t want to. And even if they don’t want to, they have already offered 😉 Picking the brains of people who can help you get to where you want to go is key.