A DIY tradition
At Loba, Taylor's days start before most of us wake up. By 5am, she’s out of bed and on her way to the kitchen. Come 6, she’s baking the day’s pastries with the doughs and ingredients she prepped the night before. While those finish in the oven, she’s preparing drinks for the 7am crowd that comes when she first opens. In between, she’s cleaning the kitchen, mopping the floors, and getting ready to do it again the next day. On weekend afternoons, she handles accounting, ordering, and scheduling. Until recently, Taylor ran Loba as a lone wolf, the Lakeview neighborhood’s own ‘06 Female, acting as owner, barista, and pastry chef simultaneously. Now she has three employees -- but that drive to handle things herself never goes away.
“Growing up in Mexico, my mom and my grandma were always about doing the whole thing themselves,” Taylor says. “My grandma would cure sausage in her backyard, she would make cheese. So there was a strong tradition of cooking in my family.”
Taylor’s mother kept a similar tradition in their home in Guadalajara, Mexico. She would never buy premade items, even basics like bread or yogurt. Taylor often pitched in, and by the time she was 6 years old, she was making tortillas in her mom’s kitchen.
In Loba’s kitchen today, Taylor’s experimentation has distinguished the bakery as one of the most beloved in the city, earning it “Best New Bakery” by Chicago Magazine In 2016. Customers rave about Taylor’s pineapple sourdough muffins, a recipe Taylor says is “secretly” vegan because despite missing the eggs, milk, and dairy found in typical muffins, they still have the same texture. There are also mole croissants with a chocolate cardamom crumble, which never stick around the shop for long.
“What I think Loba does well is take chances,” DeGroot says. “I know a lot of the pastries that Val has been producing, some can sound downright bizarre. I trust it is going to be delicious, and the product that she will be presenting is thought-provoking. She also brings in elements of her Mexican heritage, and you don’t see that in a lot of other coffee shops.”
The pastry offerings at Loba change daily to mirror Taylor’s mood and inspiration. Besides preparing the dough, she says she normally doesn’t have a game plan for what to prepare for the day until that very morning. If she plans ahead, she says, she usually changes her mind by the time she gets to the kitchen.
“I don’t want to get caught up in doing the same thing over and over and over again,” she explains. “I think that’s what pushed me away from restaurants and made me inadequate to work an office job.”