We had the good fortune of connecting with Gigi May and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gigi, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
I’m someone who thrives on consistency and routine, and in the phases in which I’m diligent about what makes me feel good, my work is of a higher calibre. Small practices like not drinking alcohol during the week nights, getting up earlier and doing a small meditation, and keeping my living space clean always increase my productivity.
Crucial to this is re-framing these activities as privileges – as in, i’m lucky that I have the time to wake up early, that I have a beautiful living space I can keep, and that I can move my body. This helps you stay consistent. Also, not punishing yourself if you don’t manage to do everything you’d hope! Keep your day in perspective, life is long.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I make bespoke, custom cakes for all occasions. They’re wildly excessive, extremely opulent and blatantly maximalist. I believe what sets me apart from others is my piping style – I coined a sort of textured, feathered cake with multiple colors and piping tips that resembles coral or tulle. This quickly went viral and subsequently has been my signature look for some time.
Getting to where I was, actually has been quite easy – mainly because cake/baking isn’t my full time job. This alleviates an incredible amount of pressure, as my metric of success becomes internal – not based on order numbers or financials. Do I like my cakes? Is this something I’m proud to present to the world? Does this cake demonstrate growth? I’m so luck that I get to ask myself these questions, and also say no to people if I don’t align with their vision.
I think what I want the world to know about Gigi’s Little Kitchen is that it’s a celebration. I think after the pandemic, it felt really good to be flamboyant for the sake of flamboyance. My cakes are ridiculous, and even impractical, but they become a centerpiece and a story for any event or moment. Cake is inherently excessive, but it’s also a vessel of celebration, indulgence, bonding. I want to be an advocate of these moments.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in New York City, and I’m never leaving.
To get around, take a citi bike. Manhattan is tiny, and having the possibility of docking wherever, whenever opens up so many doors.
To eat…Go to Chinatown – where I have spent most of my time living. Visit Hop Kee for cantonese food, Noodle Village for comfort, Peking Duck House for group dinners, 46 Mott for perfect snacks like tofu pudding and warm sesame balls. For groceries, Hong Kong Supermarket is one of the most fabulous mega-marts in the city. It’s two floors of every possible vinegar, snack, dried fruit, fish, and tropical fruit you could wish for. It is the only place in the city i’ve ever found fresh Bahri dates. If you’re not quite satisfied, head down the block to J&J Florist, which has the freshest eggs, stunning seasonal flowers and a farm produce on weekends.
If you’re in my new neighborhood – Cobble Hill in Brooklyn – I recommend stopping by Sahidis and Damascus Bakery. Both are Syrian / Lebanese markets, packed with the most insane single serve offerings of hummus, babaghanouzh, muhammara, dates, flatbreads, spices, tinned fish – Sahidis even has pierogies on occasion. If you’d prefer to sit down, Al Badawi is a gorgeous Palestinian restaurant that shouldn’t be missed.
Other notable restaurants include Thai Diner, Sofreh, Chinese Tuxedo, Rule of Thirds, Semma… the list is endless here.
To sit… Elizabeth St. Garden has a special place in my heart. It’s currently at risk of demolition, due to a contentious housing project. But while it still thrives, its perfect to sit and read – even with a takeout margarita (which still exists!) from Lovely Day. Prospect park is far superior to Central, and i’ll die on that hill. And of course, the Brooklyn Botanical gardens are a gorgeous spot to stroll.
To drink… Bar Decibel – which is now kind of overrun with losers (sorry) still is the closest place to Tokyo outside of Tokyo. Order the bottle of sake with the description “Boldy Rice Forward” (I think it’s number 48 on the menu?) and sit at the back left, in the very corner. Twins Lounge is always fun, as is Public Records. Hall in Midtown is shockingly chic and supposedly the omakase at Odo in the back is to die for.
To see.. Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side is a gem. Everything from the paintings on the walls to the objects to the design shop to the strudel in Café Sabarsky work in synchronicity to create a little taste of Europe inside NYC. It also has one of the most robust Klimt and Schiele collections i’ve ever seen. The New York Public Library is iconic, and shouldn’t be slept on. And Fotografiska is as pleasurable as a museum gets – a perfect stop to cut up a day of eating or drinking.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mother is the root of all my greatest qualities. Growing up, she emphasized the importance of hospitality, and making people feel loved through food. She taught me principle skills in the kitchen – and always presented her meals, no matter how busy, with detail and grace. She also is one of the most patient Chefs I know, and whenever I’m in a hurry or begin to cut corners, I imagine her painstakingly peeling every piece of garlic or picking parsley perfectly in order to perfect a meal.
She also has an otherworldly tenacity. I watched her balance raising three kids, keeping up a clean and orderly home and pursuing her career voraciously. Most of all, she did this while being loving, kind and passionate about creating an imaginative and limitless childhood for us. My mom is the reason I am able to balance so many things, and my confidence comes from her unconditional belief in my abilities. Without her, i would hesitate to try new things – including selling cakes!