We are excited to introduce a new four-part series titled “Quick Bites with Lavanya Narayanan,” delving into the world of culinary female entrepreneurs in Indiana.
Zoe Taylor’s a bundle of energy—how, I have no idea. With two young children running around, you’d think her nervous energy has an outlet already. Instead, it’s teeming with excitement as she and her husband and partner Josh Kline prepare to launch their upcoming venture in Speedway, Borage, later this year.
“I’m just excited to bake again,” she sighs, and well, most of her loyal customers are just as thrilled to see her on the scene post-maternity leave. They’re her staunchest supporters, following her through her journey as pastry chef at the famed Milktooth before her split from the restaurant and into her successful venture, Sourpuss Bakes.
“It came at the perfect time,” she recounts. And in reality, it all really did—Taylor and her partner Kline, former sous-chef at Milktooth, left the restaurant at the onset of the pandemic almost two years ago, a divide that shook the culinary scene in Indianapolis. “We were growing so much each day—we’d plan the menus together and that’s where I really felt I learned a lot of my technique and got a chance to incorporate more savory, unexpected flavors into my pastries,” Taylor says.
Of course, Kline remains only one of her many inspirational influences and reservoirs of pastry knowledge to draw from. Taylor began her journey as a young chef, observing her parents in her Texas home, whipping up Julia Child recreations or quick dishes with ease. An innovator herself, she got bitten by the baking bug in college, making batches of homemade granola for a local cafe before journeying to Paris where she, as so many do, fell in love with French patisserie.
Her mastery hasn’t fallen on deaf ears in the slightest. Translating her Parisian journey into a profession in culinary school, Taylor’s accolades in a host of national publications including “Bon Appetit,” “Thrillist,” and “Conde Nast Traveler” have put Midwestern baking on the map—but if you ask her how she does it, her response is a shrug and a laugh.
“Honestly? I’m so humbled by that, but I think, if I can say this, that I just don’t take myself too seriously—I love to cook and bake, and my creations are simply a reflection of what I like to eat most of the time,” she smiles.
Tap into Taylor’s local fan following and many adore her unique spin on pastry, an aspect that created the foundation of her independent venture, Sourpuss Bakes.
“I was doodling one day, just kind of messing with the word ‘sourdough,’ admittedly my favorite bread, and the name ‘sourpuss’ seemed to click. I tend to be a sourpuss some days, and the only thing that pulls me out of that funk is baking,” she explains.
The creations are just as unique as the name itself: croissant toast bostocks, Alsatian flammkuchen, croissants sandwiching seasonal produce, and a tiramisu pie that’s rumored to make an appearance in Taylor’s upcoming Speedway venture only scratch the surface of what’s in store.
“I’m inspired by the farms and what they have to offer each season—the winter, for instance, is all about citrus and chocolate. Summer celebrates rhubarb, strawberries, corn, and in-season produce. For me, I try to honor those flavors and, on a personal level, eat seasonally as well,” she says.
That’s not all that will build Borage, either. For Taylor, she hopes it’s a place that honors the change she and Kline want to see in the industry: better wages, reflected in the eatery’s profit-sharing model, and more transparency with the staff, along with a cafe-bakery-market co-op model that will allow diners to both dine-in and support local businesses as they perhaps attempt to recreate some of the items in their own kitchens.
“We want it to feel like a year-round farmers market, one where our customers can dine, shop, sample, and purchase—essentially, we want to bring forth a sense of community in the industry,” Taylor smiles.
Slated to open its doors in the summer, it’s no secret that it will be Speedway’s most awaited opening. Until then? We’ll have to make do with another rare Zoe Taylor box that she takes orders for through her Instagram: be warned though, they sell out quickly, usually 2-3 weeks prior to the date itself.
“I’ve been blessed with all the support I’ve gotten, from my days at Milktooth, through the pandemic, and until now. If I’ve gained anything, it’s been the love of Indianapolis that I pour into my baking every minute, just hoping to give back,” Taylor concludes.
Want to eat like Zoe Taylor? Here’s a mini dining guide to get you started.
Taylor swears by starting the day with a Clove Miel from Rabble Coffee, accompanied by the infamous Leviathan Bakehouse chocolate croissant. She recommends following it up with one of Leviathan’s many savory creations, perhaps a sandwich or quiche, and, of course, another pastry. Her day rounds out with a dinner of nigiri sushi at Asaka, another Indianapolis favorite.
Lavanya Narayanan is an Indianapolis-based journalist who’s always on the lookout for the next best bite. When she’s not out restaurant-hopping, she loves experimenting with friends in the kitchen and has a special affinity in her heart for Starbucks, Twizzlers, and Diet Coke.
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