The Journey

09/30/2022 02:14 AM By Lisa Anderson
The Chews Letter
Bev Hansen
Bev Hansen
Story by Cierra Ross • Photos by Joshua Jacobs

The Journey

One Woman’s Passion To Create Opportunity

“That’s where I was going; nothing was going to stop me until…” Bev says. That five-letter word changed the entire course of Bev’s life: from interning during the summer for a congressperson with her mind set on studying law to earning her degree in philosophy, which later led to her being French cuisine-trained and earning a pastry certificate. 

Bev Hansen was born in England to an American father and an Irish mother and raised on a U.S. Air Force base in Suffolk County, England. The cultural experiences expanded her palate, and she received the best of all three cultures: American, Irish, and British. 

Before Bev was 3 years old, she was by her mother’s side, helping her frost roses for her mother’s cakery. “I would help her by piping buttercream roses as soon as I could hold the piping bag. I would eat most of them, but I tried to save a few,” Bev recalls. Though her heart remained set on law school, life had a way of opening new roads. “Sugar art is a luxury and not everyone has access to it. So, I wanted to bring good food to good people, and that’s where my obsession turned into something more.”

Both of her parents were skilled in the kitchen, with her mother focused on desserts and her father on the savory side of the dishes. “I was obsessed with food,” Bev says with a smile. “The stuff you can get at certain places is certainly cheap, but it’s not tasty and I wanted to bring good ingredients—quality ingredients—to someone who wouldn’t necessarily afford them.” This passion drove her to earn her degree in pastry and the arts instead of a law degree.

Testing Her Limits

However, when Bev realized the course she wanted to take in the pastry world, she was contending with another significant challenge. “I have about 15 percent hearing left [in my left ear] and [the right ear] is down to 5 percent. It was gradual, and I didn’t notice it. I didn’t know I was doing most of the work in conversations,” she recalls. “It wasn’t till I was about 35 and went to that ENT, and he said, ‘Oh yeah, you have hearing damage. Severe ear damage.’” Yet, in the last five years, Bev’s hearing loss went from gradual to being submerged in silence. “Imagine being under water all the time; that’s what my right ear sounds like,” she explains. “You always want to clear it but can’t.”

Bev was offered an experimental surgery to understand her hearing loss, but she questioned whether or not the reward outweighed the consequences. “[Y]ou would lose part of your [sense of taste]…I didn’t choose it, because taste was important to me.” Three years ago, Bev earned her degree in bakery and pastry arts, but she has 50 years of experience that began with frosting buttercream roses and led her to open her own bakery.

Challenges are familiar to Bev, and overcoming them is another step in her journey. When she was in her early twenties, she had a baby girl that had unique challenges of her own. Bev states, “Being an advocate for my [daughter] is certainly something I’ve had to do all my life.” Through the advocacy for her daughter, Bev became an advocate for herself when she lost her hearing.

Raising Others Up

It seemed as though Bev’s hearing loss would prevent her from achieving her goal. Bev says, “Broadly speaking, I opened my own bakery, because I couldn’t get hired in a bakery because of [being] a later sugar bloomer with a hearing disability that they may have to make accommodations for.”

In 2019, Bev opened her own bakery, but her goals keep expanding. Bev has a stack of recipes she needs to try. With food, the possibilities are endless. Bev notes, “I have to see if I can get all three flavors in one bite!” Her inspirations come from the physical: “I just look around, and I’m like, ‘I’m going to cookie that.’” 

Bev says the purpose of everything she is doing comes down to her two callings colliding. Her goal is to open a good ole’ fashion brick-and-mortar bakery in Ocala, but with a unique twist: Her bakery will “only [employ] special needs adults, so they learn the trade. They are very creative, very capable; all they need is someone to make the accommodations that they need.” Her passion is to provide a space for young adults or older adults with special needs to learn the trade of baking. Those individuals could take the skills they learn to other places of employment, like a supermarket bakery.
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