For Sara Brook, life has been sweet. "What can I say? I have loved desserts since the day I was born," confesses the fifth-generation Houstonian and the youngest of three children. "I have always had a passion for baking. There's a reason I have an Easy Bake Oven in my office! My fondest childhood memory is as a 4-year-old in preschool, taking turns mixing cake batter in class. After more than 30 years in business, I still love looking at pictures in cookbooks and coming up with new recipes."
But she didn’t start out as a chef. After graduating first in her class from The University of Texas with a degree in computer science and sociology, Brook was working at a law firm and studying for the LSAT when she glanced around the room one day and decided that everyone in the law office seemed a bit too serious. "I was determined to come up with a plan to spend days doing what I loved," she said. Bye-bye law.
At the age of 21, Brook launched her first dessert business, and hasn't looked back since. The Executive Sweet, which flourished from 1979 until 1988 before she sold it, was a hit. One week later, without skipping a beat, Brook launched Sara Brook Desserts, a dessert catering company she operated out of the River Oaks Grill. When customers repeatedly asked for a chocolate sauce she had created, Brook decided to devote full time to marketing and selling her sauce, The Great Chocolate Cover Up, nationwide through specialty and gourmet food stores. In 1992, Brook sold that company and continued working with the new owners as a consultant for two years.
Start of dessert gallery
In 1995, Brook founded her third (and favorite) dessert company: Dessert Gallery Bakery & Cafe, Houston's premier dessert bakery. Since opening, Dessert Gallery has consistently been recognized for Best Desserts in Houston by a wide variety of publications. In 2001, Brook received the prestigious Award for Culinary Excellence as Pastry Chef of the Year from My Table ~ Houston's Dining Magazine. In 2011, Sara was one of 18 finalists for the ABC News Nightline People’s Platelist Award. Today, the enterprise is certified as a Women's Business Enterprise by the City of Houston, the State of Texas and the WBEA Women's Business Enterprise Alliance, and has one location in Houston, a thriving Internet presence and she ships her desserts nationwide.
"It's always been a family affair, first with help from my parents, then my grandmother. My daughter, Jen, grew up alongside the business and was a frequent contributor, and now from my dad, a semi-retired dentist who continues to work with me," said Brook. That family also extends to Brook's employees, some of whom were hired through the YMCA refugee settlement program and have been with her for 5, 10 and even 16-plus years.
Brook is appreciative that she has made a career out of her passion and gives back in many ways, each year, to her numerous supporters. Whether through charitable donations, or pep talks to other young entrepreneurial hopefuls, Sara continually shares her love of baking and business sense with the community at large. Even with daily headlines warning Americans of the need to count calories and watch fat intake, and the cupcake competitors who have cropped up over the years, Sara continually adds loyal fans by being part of life cycle events time and time again. "We can only go so long denying ourselves desserts. So, when it's time to indulge, Dessert Gallery is here to satisfy the cravings," says Brook, whose favorite saying has remained the same for years: Save the Earth...it's the only planet with chocolate!