On the corner of University and Priest Drives in Tempe, you’ll find a little bit of sweet tooth paradise in the form of Tracy Dempsey Originals. I love sweets, especially pastries that are so fresh, they’re still warm from the oven. When I discovered Tracy Dempsey Originals, I found my happy place.
The storefront on University Drive is actually the most recent turn in Tracy’s journey from teaching English as a Second Language in the American English & Culture Program at Arizona State University (ASU), to pastry chef for the award-winning Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale to her current profession as owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals, baker and supplier of fine pastries to many of the Valley’s most prominent restaurants.
With a background in French literature and language, Tracy was teaching English as Second Language at ASU when she decided to change course and pursue her passion for pastry, which began with the Easy Bake Oven she received at age four. She returned to school, this time at the Scottsdale Community College Culinary Arts program.
After completing culinary school, Tracy worked at a resort and few small chef owned restaurants before joining the team as pastry chef at Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale in 2004. Then in 2009, the recession hit, taking its toll on the restaurant industry and Tracy lost her job. Cowboy Ciao was one of many restaurants that were forced to eliminate pastry chefs and other staff in order to survive. Tracy recognized that this void needed to be filled, and began her own business creating pastries for restaurants.
Her friend Steve Runyon, owner of the Sugar Shack in Scottsdale, offered her the use of his kitchen and her business, Tracy Dempsey Originals, was launched. She baked and delivered samples to area restaurants. Her efforts were rewarded when Colin Campbell, the chef-owner of Crudo, became her first client. Next she was introduced to Carolyn Ellis of Arcadia Farms and reached an agreement to use her kitchen. At that time she had three accounts and a growing business.
As Tracy’s reputation for creating sumptuous pastries spread, so did her clientele. She was contracting with restaurants throughout the Valley, which lead her to take the next big step of purchasing her own space. In 2012, she found, the perfect place at 1323 W. University Drive in Tempe. The location, price and overall good Tempe vibe, made for a great match.
Today she counts among her clients some of the most prestigious and popular restaurants in Metro Phoenix. You’ll find here delectable deserts in 12 restaurants including Citizen Public House, The Gladly, the Arcadia and Downtown locations of The Nook, The Stockyards, Uncle Sal’s and Press Coffee. She also sells her brittles and other packaged specialty items at Changing Hands Bookstore, Superstition Golf Course and the Farm at South Mountain.
In her new Tempe location, Tracy opened holiday pop-up bakeries which were so popular she was prompted to open a storefront bakery in 2015. The bakery is open Thursday through Saturday. Check the website for current hours of operation.
Tracy enjoys the storefront bakery because it “allows me to experiment and be more creative.” She combines nontraditional flavors with amazing results. ”I have a flavor memory that I refer to when I taste something new and I obsess about how that ingredient could be used in the sweet world. . . soy sauce in caramels. Why not?”
She’s come up with some of the most delectably different pastries I’ve ever tasted like donut muffins (light as a feather and coated in cinnamon and sugar), chocolate mousse and lemon verbena bars, ginger creams, homemade marshmallows and bacon pecan and red hot chili brittle. Her shortbreads are not your typical shortbreads. These buttery, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth confections come in flavors like five spiced with smoked salt, candy capped mushrooms and pink pepper corn and coffee. Her sharing cakes are small, pretty 5” rounds, so perfect for sharing with two to four friends.
As busy as this baker is supplying area bakeries and sweet-lovin’ individuals such as myself with amazing sugar surges, Tracy also volunteers for several area charities. One that is near and dear to her heart is The Joy Bus, founded by her friend Jennifer Caraway. Tracy serves on the board of this unique, grass roots organization which is supported by the restaurant/chef community and provides fresh chef-inspired meals and a friendly face to home bound cancer patients. “I am so proud of Jennifer and the amazing volunteers who help make it happen whether it’s delivering meals or helping the diner.”
Tracey is a true artist and entrepreneur whose culinary creativity, ebullient personality and generous nature is a wonderful addition to Tempe. Stop by Tracy Dempsey Originals at 1325 W. University Dr. in Tempe and peruse the gleaming bakery cases full of wonderful goodies. You too will find your happy place.