South Side-based chef Maya-Camille Broussard appreciates the opportunity to showcase her talents on “Bake Squad,” the Netflix series which premieres Wednesday.
Broussard is no stranger to the stage, as her theater background will attest. Her father, the late trial attorney Stephen Broussard, was a community theater actor with ETA Creative Arts Foundation, a South Chicago-based performance and training organization, and she holds theater degrees from Howard and Northwestern Universities.
The series, which features four bakers competing to see whose dessert will be chosen for someone’s special event, is hosted by Milk Bar owner and chef Christina Tosi.
“Chef Tosi has ‘Bake Club.’ The first time I worked with her was during one of her episodes she would do on Instagram,” said Broussard. “Then I got invited to come to LA to shoot the show. I’m super grateful for the opportunity, but I’ve been in TV, film and theater my entire life. The idea of being around artists in film and TV is not foreign to me. I was pretty much in my element shooting for Netflix.”
Broussard, a graduate of Mother McAuley High School, says she became aware of Chicago’s culinary scene once she left the city.
“I truly discovered [Chicago’s reputation for great food] when I traveled to other places; I would get frustrated because I couldn’t eat,” said Broussard. “I didn’t have the same options that I did in Chicago; so when I travel, I tend to seek out cities that have the same level of diversity in food and dining that Chicago does. ... I’m really happy to be from a city that is a culinary powerhouse.”
Broussard’s style of cooking, through “Justice of the Pies,” her bakery that specializes in pies, quiches, and tarts, is a direct inspiration — not a catalyst, she says — of her father, who once defended an 11-year-old boy accused of murdering his 83-year-old neighbor, and her mother, a physician who specializes in preventive health care, as well as city communities that are suffering, she says, from “food apartheid.”
“My dad enjoyed being an attorney, but he also led a purposeful life, and both of my parents have inspired me through their individual work,” said Broussard. “To lead a purpose-driven life. Be bigger than yourself. And that is focused on lending ways to better humanity. Don’t say ‘food desert,’ we say ‘food apartheid’ because food desert denotes that the environment was already like that.
“My dad was self-employed as a criminal defense attorney, and some of his cases ended up in the [newspaper]. I would be really mad at him like: ‘Hey, how could you represent this boy that killed that old lady?’ He would say everyone needs representation. Access to health care for mental health was not available to this little boy, and therefore he committed a horrible crime. As a person living with a disability myself (Broussard is a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community), I definitely developed a better understanding of why my dad did the work that he did.”
On “Bake Squad,” Broussard said she wants to show anything is possible for young Black and Brown girls.
“I’m grateful for the show. Obviously, it gives me and my brand another level of visibility,” she said. “What’s more important is — I hope this doesn’t sound corny — I want someone to see me on the show and say: ‘Oh, she’s hard of hearing, and her speech is perfect.’ Well I’ve had speech therapy for years and years, so I may not have the classic Chicago accent all the time. … I want primarily Black and Brown girls — people living with disabilities — to be inspired by my story, my tenacity, drive and success. … When people see me shine on TV, I want them to see me shine through the lens of a Black woman living with a disability — and doing it well.”