Clio Goodman, Pudding Chef, On Opening Her Shop Puddin' By Clio
If you have fond memories of eating pudding as a child, you might want to make Clio Goodman your new best friend. Then again, you might have to get in line. In January, the 23-year-old opened Puddin’ by Clio in New York's East Village, a shop that allows customers to pair pudding flavors like chocolate, banana and butterscotch with toppings like salted caramel sauce, old-fashioned peanut brittle and homemade sprinkles -- and she’s already attracted some devoted fans. Goodman spoke with HuffPost Women about her experience as a first-time business owner and the overwhelming response to her product.
First of all, why pudding?
I was a private chef for a young man, and he asked me one day to make pudding, and I said, "Okay, I can do that." So I make him pudding, and he loves it. He gives it to his friends and family, and they love it. And I kept getting requests to make pudding. So one day as an off-handed joke, I said to him, "This is just like crack. I should just sell it."
Had you thought of opening your own business?
I had, but I didn't think I would do it until later in life.
Can you tell me a little about your background?
I was the private chef for this guy, and before that, I worked in restaurants. I worked at Union Square Café. I worked in a couple of Daniel Boulud restaurants. When I was a teenager, I would do a little catering for birthdays and graduations. Both my parents cook all the time. They're not professional chefs, but they're very passionate about food. Baking for me was just because I have a major sweet tooth.
Do you remember when you first made pudding?
When I started making pudding for my clients, I did research, and I hadn't realized that I had made pudding before. It was just under a different name. When I was younger, we used to make a custard. Twice a month, my mom would make a cake -- she didn't like sweets in the house, but she would always made cakes. If we ever made a custard filling for the cake, I didn't realize it, but that was a pudding. I had two inside jokes when I was little. I actually used to say, "When I'm old, I want a pool full of pudding." I used to say that for years. And we would also do this thing where we would mix chocolate pudding into chocolate milk because we thought we were cool, but it really wasn't that delicious.
Your mom is working as your sous-chef. How's that going?
Luckily, we were very close beforehand. There’s a normal mom-and-daughter banter. But I wouldn't trust anyone else to be in there. Her palette for flavor and seasonings is, I think, far beyond mine, but she won't admit that. I know for a fact that everything she'll cook will never be wrong, so if something's a little bit off, I'll be like, "That's not my mom's." What I have my people do is to put their initials on everything they make. I do it too, so my employees are like, "Clio, this one’s yours. C.G.! C.G.!" My dad actually comes and helps once in a while. He won't do the register, but he'll be our dishwasher, which is really cute.
How long did it take to go from idea to opening?
All in all, about a year. I never, ever, ever took business classes, so it was kind of the blind leading the blind. We were starting to research to find out what the first step was, and we'd find the first step and find that there is a step before and five steps before that before we even get to the fourth step that we never even heard of. It was getting permits, getting the health permit, getting the contracts. It was like all this different paperwork and also finding wholesalers. Businesses are very secretive about who they buy from. There are these secret terms you use to research these things, and I was like, “I didn't know that!” It was like I had a year of business school, a four-year degree in one year.
Having gone through all that, what was it like when you finally opened?
It was opposite of what I thought. I'm a very realistic person. So I thought, OK, we'll open, we'll build up press, and it will be good. And it hit us like a ton of brick. The first day we opened, we sold out in an hour and a half. The second day, we sold out in 40 minutes. Suddenly, I had to readjust my thinking to Oh my god, this is happening right now.
And you had to close the shop?
Yes! We had sold out of four days of cooking. We had cooked four days ahead, thinking, This will last us all week. But it didn't. And also the space is so small we can only hold so much.
Are you basically living at the shop at this point?
Oh yeah, I don't sleep. I'm actually moving to the East Village too, so I will literally be around the corner from the shop.
Where do you see yourself taking this?
I see myself hopefully expanding, a bigger shop maybe, have more cakes and things. I’ve had a lot of customers from the Upper West Side or New Jersey who asked me to open a shop there. So we're definitely going to expand somehow but still keep it the same pudding.
Have you gotten sick of the pudding yet?
The coffee pudding is the only one I find I can keep eating because it's bitter and it's creamy and it's delicious. I can only eat so much of it, though -- like a thimble-full. And then I have these ginger crunch cookies in the shop that I'm obsessed with, and I eat those like every single day. I have what I call the "chef's special," which isn't that special, but my friends call for it because they know exactly how I assemble it. It's fudge coffee pudding and toasted marshmallow and chocolate sprinkles, and that’s like my pudding cup.
What has the reaction been from customers?
Oh my god, they’re ecstatic. They tell me their pudding stories. "Oh, when I was little, my mom would put out the bowls of pudding and I'd put my finger in all of them while they were still hot and I'd cover it up and run away." It's like they're overwhelmed with joy. And the looks on their face -- they beam when they eat it, and it just makes me really happy. They're just like, "Oh! Yes! I found it!" Before the shop opened, I used to check the e-mails from our website, and I got one from a guy and he said, "For years, I told people there should be a shop for pudding. For years they mocked me, but you're going to show them what pudding can do."
SLIDESHOW: Puddin' by Clio