The Butter Half
Article by Vanelis Rivera and Photography by Martin G Meyers
Charity Jones Shares Her “Love Language”
The Vantage Tower in downtown Monroe will soon be known for more than its prominent 12 stories, lavish wedding receptions and esteemed history.
On January 15th, Great Gatsby met Julia Child in the lobby of Monroe’s high-rise with the opening of Butter: A Louisiana Bakery.
In the corner of the Vantage Grand Lobby sat Charity Jones, owner and head baker of Butter. Her long strawberry red waves were pulled back in a ponytail, her yellow apron was embroidered with the Butter logo and her toddler in lap. Husband and “official taster,” Adam Jones, sat next to her, nonchalantly cocooning his infant son. Charity is a local gal, born and raised in Monroe, and though Adam is a “Sterlington guy,” the duo met in community theatre during a production of Pirates of Penzance. They became close, then best friends through college, dated and “two kids later,” they’re opening a bakery. Charity playfully expresses that she “bought his heart with baked goods.”
As their eldest, Penelope, giggled while watching Zootopia on a tablet, Charity told BayouLife about the women who inspired her to open a bakery. “My grandmother was a fantastic baker. She passed it on to my mom,” says Charity who recalls messing up her mother’s recipes at a young age. Charity credits her grandmother for teaching her how to pipe icing and both matriarchs for exemplifying how baking can be a form of service. She insists that baking has become her “love language.”
A college internship at Disney World during 2011 revealed just how much she loved to share love by baking. Her stay occurred during Mardi Gras, so naturally she was craving king cake. “Where can I buy a Mardi Gras cake around here?” Charity recalls asking her Disney co-workers. Being in Florida, nobody knew what she was talking about, so she made her own “massive” king cake and took it to work the next day. She was the first to cut into the cake and as soon as she did, Charity recalls, “Everyone was like, oh, is that cream cheese in there? What is that?” The Louisiana favorite disappeared in three minutes. Emboldened by the reception of her home state treat and missing her mom’s baking, Charity began baking for her roommates — a habit that would soon amplify.
She returned to Monroe torn between culinary school and pursuing a degree in mass communications. The answer came in the form of an opening for an assistant baker position at Vieux Carré. There she became head baker and ceased her pursuit for a degree. Right when it seemed a dream was coming true, Charity stopped baking completely for a job at Vantage. Newly wed, with a husband still in school, she thought it the wiser financial choice, but by the time she got pregnant with Penelope in 2015, she left Vantage for a part-time job at Vieux Carré and took up baking at home, establishing Butter.
A distinct staple of her baked goods drove founder and CEO of Vantage, Dr. Gary Jones to approach Charity concerning opening a bakery as an addition to the remodeling that was underway for Vantage Tower. Dr. Jones was initially exposed to Charity’s talents when he tasted her wedding cake in 2013, a carrot cake she made for her own wedding.
It took her 3 months to come up with an adequate recipe that all of her guests would be able to enjoy, particularly guests with dietary restrictions, like her now father-in-law, Dr. Jones, who has Celiac disease, and must eat gluten-free products. Wanting the best for his employees, Charity’s healthy and titillating baked goods were an unmatched choice for the available space. At the time, she was not fully versed in gluten-free baking, but was eager to find out. She began experimenting with recipes while at Vieux Carré and soon became flooded with baking requests from folks who wanted to include friends and family with dietary restrictions into festivities involving celebratory sweets. Charity’s mission became one of inclusion, an honorable aim that has gone unchanged. “I really fell in love with baking gluten-free because there is really a need, especially in this area,” she insists.
That means, all of Butter’s baked goods are – gasp – 100% gluten-free. While Charity has a few sweet and savory reasons to shout from the top of Vantage Tower that her baked goods are gluten-free, she does not advertise herself as a gluten-free baker, anticipating being “put in a box.” Often associated with strange flavors and textures, gluten-free sweets are often subjected to wrongful assumptions. However, Charity handles her recipes like an expert chemist, tentatively manipulating the composition of matter and its properties, resulting in flavorful batches of sweets that could easily match those of any French-styled patisserie. “Our goal is that you cannot tell the difference. If you can tell the difference, I’m not serving it,” she says.
For some, venturing into the land of gluten-free sweets may seem like an oxymoron, but Charity has succeeded in incorporating the traditional with the innovative. Butter’s menu has all-time favorites such as fluffy mini quiches, perfectly salty-sweet chocolate chip cookies, glazed chocolate donut holes, vanilla-stuffed eclairs (that are even better the next day), and a monthly featured cake. It also offers more nuanced pairings like their breakfast panini — chocolate, bacon and white cheddar hugged together by their signature pound cake. This wacky combo may seem like something out of a Dr. Seuss story, but it’s a delightful pound cake step-to-heaven. January’s cake is their fan-favorite strawberry cake, and February’s may be her Italian-cream cake. Another festive addition for February could be candied apples, “just to get the red in there.” Charity currently features a red treat that will never go out of style, chocolate covered strawberries. A hint of pink can be spotted from her homemade pop tarts, a fun ode to the 90s that is sure to please any ‘cool kids.’ A few from-scratch rarities have also been sneaked into her display window, such as macaroons, biscotti, two flavors of crème brûlée, and a hardy Greek yogurt served with your choice of her very own granola mixes– butter-berry granola made with three different berries and three different nuts or her salty-chocolate granola.
Finding the perfect gluten-free creation is no simple feat. “Everything has its own challenge,” Charity says. Each recipe has been a small victory, because you can’t just replace her flour with a regular recipe. Making her own all-purpose flour from an assortment such as sorghum, rice, tapioca and potato flour, Charity is constantly tweaking to get the texture she wants. With an “army of victories” behind her, she is currently conquering the art of breadmaking. She’s begun this feat with an artisan French bread loaf that is ready for the taking. And, it’s no surprise to say, but Butter’s first king cakes are on the horizon. Regardless of what you choose, one thing’s for sure, gluten-free will be the last thing on your mind.
On opening day, Charity has a pep in her step that exudes confidence and the love of her craft. She leads with a smile as she seemingly glides from table to table offering coffee refills. It’s hard to imagine this invigorating 27-year-old entrepreneur and ever doubting her or her abilities. But that is part of Charity’s climb. She told BayouLife of two instances that will forever monument her greatest doubts. The first involves a wedding cake she made for her brother that ended up slanting because of poor structural support and sun exposure. The thought of ruining his wedding brought her to tears at the slightest mention. “For months,” her husband chimes lovingly. The second ended up being a not-so-vanilla cake. She was excited about this one, her complex design and coloring techniques promising. But the next morning she awoke to a Facebook message relaying that the cake was inedible. The word “disgusting” was thrown around. Charity was distraught. She managed some damage control by offering a refund and baking the client her best-selling strawberry cake. Dusting herself off, she threw the vanilla recipe out, cried a lot, worked even more, got encouraged by her husband, and came up with a new vanilla cake recipe that she stands behind.
“I have to say, all glory to God. Without his grace and kindness I wouldn’t be able to do it,” says Charity, adding that without her “cheerleader section” comprised of her family, she wouldn’t have been able to apply for the better what she learned from her mistakes. Her parents always supported her baking, recognizing her talent and encouraging her based on that. She emphasizes that she could not have opened up Butter without her “best friend, strongest supporter, and [love-of-her-life].” She can count on Adam to slip on the yellow Butter apron and blue Butter hat, dive into washing dishes and help her close up shop. “I just love that you love this company as much as I do,” she tells him during our interview.
A talent turned into a calling, Charity claims that there is nothing better than handing someone who hasn’t been able to eat anything sweet or a quiche for years and be able to tell them that they can eat it in its entirety. Her push-the-limits attitude stems from the simple goal of running a good southern bakery and a love for Louisiana and Monroe, making it easy for anyone to fall in love with the ‘butter’ side of downtown Monroe with Butter’s modern bites.
Now open Monday through Friday between 7-11 a.m. Keep up with Charity’s inventive treats via their Facebook page or email them at email@example.com.