From cooking for the Czech Olympic Team to living the American dream

The local magazine “Mountain Town: Breckenridge” recently published an article which recognized her work and named her: the “Best Baker on the Mountain”. Let us present you this successful entrepreneur, Ema Landis, the owner and executive pastry chef of Mom’s Baking Co., in Breckenridge.

KITnDO: Can you introduce yourself, Ema, and tell us how you ended up in Breckenridge?

Ema: I was born and raised in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, in the Czech Republic but have lived in the USA for the last 20 years. I have a culinary degree, but my passion has always been baking. I originally came to the US as a sous chef for the Czech Olympic Team in the summer of 1996. This was, for me, a life changing experience on the professional side. I moved to Atlanta full time in 2001 where I worked in a Czech restaurant for 1 year. After that, I decided to move to Breckenridge, Colorado because I had some friends living there at the time. I think that mountains are something that attracts us Czechs.

KITnDO: What motivated you to create your own business? Can you describe your journey?

Ema: I worked in restaurants for so many years but there was always something missing and it was working specifically in baking. One day, while I was walking through a place known as a Polish deli, which served piroghis, I asked the owner if perhaps she was interested in selling her place? To my surprise, she called me the next day and we made a deal. This was not really a project I had planned; it was more like an opportunity that I blindly jumped into! At that time, people in the city knew me already through catering and I felt that there was a place in the market for a good pastry shop, something like what we call in Czech a “cukrarna”. This is how I created Mom’s Baking Company in 2016, and since then my baking and catering activities have been continually developing, despite the pandemic. The nearest mountains are a wedding destination, so a part of my business is oriented around offering signature wedding cakes. I also have regular Czech customers that come to my bakery because of the specific Czech sweets and sandwiches they will find here.

KITnDO: Indeed, your Instagram account shows very authentic Czech specialties. Tell us more about it and how do locals like your selection?

Ema: It took me a long time to introduce my style, but thankfully it was well received by the community here. I feel like it is unique from all the other typical traditional bakery places here in Breckenridge. The fact is that in the beginning, people didn’t really know Czech pastries and were more conservative in their orders. But once they sampled different things, they liked them. Our most popular is the “venecek” and caramel “vetrenik”. We also bake strudels (sweet and savory) and rolls which, by the way, can be sampled before choosing from cakes. Another Czech specialty that people come for specifically are our traditional open face sandwiches (“chlebicky”). We also have a baked tea, prepared from seasonal fruits, that we serve hot or cold, and people can also buy it in jars to bring home. Although we have some Czech clients, most of our customers are from all over the world, as Breckenridge is a tourist town.

KITnDO: You named your place Mom’s baking Co. because everyone you worked with in the restaurant business called you fondly “mom”, but also because you are a mom. Have you been sharing your Czech culture to your children?

Ema: I have two kids. My son is 17 and my daughter is 15.  They are very close to their roots. When they were smaller, I used to take them before the end of the school year in Colorado to the Czech Republic where they were able to go to the Czech school for one whole month as well. Spending a lot of time in the Czech Republic during summers helped them to be fluent in Czech. In addition, we like to spend time together cooking and baking.

KITnDO: Do you miss the Czech Republic? Is there a Czech community you can meet with?

Ema: I miss my mom. My house in the Czech Republic is next to hers on the same property. I am impatient to go there for a holiday in just a few days. Here in the US, I have some family in Texas and I have many Czech friends here in Breckenridge and also in Denver. When my kids were younger, we used to meet with other families for typical Czech celebrations like Christmas and Easter.

KITnDO: Can you share any tips for where to buy ingredients to cook typical Czech dishes or if you know any Czech restaurants in your region?

Ema: It is very difficult to get any special ingredients in the mountains. There is a Polish store in Denver where I can buy some East-European products, but for my business I just bake with what is available locally. Concerning restaurants, there is a nice place in Morrison, called Cafe Prague where they serve “svieckova” and draught Czech beer.

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It would be pointless to ask if you could order online from Ema’s selection of amazing pastries. As they are made with cream, thus it would be perilous to ship! In case you plan to visit gorgeous mountains in Colorado, we recommend adding this stop to your journey! You can always call in advance to place an order but only of course if you are there to pick it up! Keep connected with Ema through her Instagram account where you can follow her entrepreneurial journey!

Photo credit: Ema Landis

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Here is a snapshot of our interactive repertory, pointing out Mom’s Baking Co. If you know about another place linked to Czech or another culture, in Colorado or anywhere else, please share it directly in the platform by clicking on the yellow button Add new place. And, if you would like to tell us your immigrant or expat story, let us know, we would be glad to learn more!

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