Felicia Henson, or “Chef Fee” as she’s known in the culinary world, didn’t overthink things when she transitioned from sous chef to bakery owner. After testing the idea out from her home kitchen, she rented a commercial kitchen and opened her bakery, Sweet Hazel & Co. This leap of faith compelled her to ignore thoughts of “what if this doesn’t work?” and is one thing she credits with her success. But she’s quick to give accolades for the support she gets from the community.
“When I transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, I discovered working in a kitchen preparing meat and dairy products no longer aligned with my values,” said Chef Fee. “Around that time, I started making vegan sweets and testing recipes.” The demand for her goodies grew organically, especially for her vegan candy bars, which she ships around the country. What started as a way for her to expand the repertoire of delicious treats available for the vegan community turned into opening a bakery and later a vegan bistro.
She is adamant that being part of a community is good for a person, whether a cat group, a car club, or something else that speaks to you. “I don’t think I would be where I am today without the support of our vegan community and the community of the LGBTQIA,” she adds.
With the support she receives, she does her best to give back too. The bakery and bistro provide jobs for 10 employees, and Henson allows other local small businesses to sell products in her shop. Since fostering animals is a cause near and dear to her (the bakery is named after her cat, who passed away, and she and her wife constantly foster cats), her tables have information about local shelters and animals who need to be adopted.
While Chef Fee is a successful businesswoman, she doesn’t mince words about the struggles of starting, owning, and running a business. “Starting the bakery was easy, but the bistro was challenging,” she notes. “There’s the issue of work/life balance, which I admit I have yet to master.” Yet despite the hurdles, she’s quick to add that her motivation comes from helping others. “My reward is seeing the joy my food brings people and knowing I am helping the human and animal communities.”
She believes Utahns should support local businesses, whether men or women run them. Any effort to shop locally builds and strengthens the community. Chef Fee believes that true success is being able to help other people.