About Chef Maria

A Pastry Chef in the Making

Chef Maria's road to a professional pastry career began as a small child in her mother's kitchen. Learning the art of creating edible expressions of love delighted her from the time she was old enough to pull a stool up to the counter. Chef Maria dreamed of becoming a pastry chef long before the Food Network aired but initially believed it was unrealistic. She pursued a degree in Business Administration and followed a traditional career path instead.

chef maria at graduation

Baking Competition

With a little help from God, a friendly baking rivalry at her weekly Bible study reminded Chef Maria of the joy she experienced in the kitchen with her mother. She left the security of her full-time IT career after nearly 20 years to enroll in Chicago's prestigious French Pastry School.

Passion for Pastry In Action

Chef Maria happily endured four-to-six-hour train commutes five days a week (224 total!) and a rigorous curriculum for six months to earn her L'Art de la Pâtisserie certificate. She immediately launched Decadence Bakery and Pastries as a storefront in Normal, IL.

Honor Your Parents

Two years into her successful venture, Chef Maria’s mother had a stroke. Chef Maria closed the bakery, promising her mother she wouldn’t abandon her in any of the four nursing homes she would live in. She kept her promise for the next six years, seven months, and one day of her mother's life. "Little Mama" got her wings on the 9th anniversary of Chef Maria's graduation from pastry school  It was during this period Chef Maria reintroduced her company as Beyond Decadence.

Six years later she would honor a similar promise to be with her father until the end when he was diagnosed with dementia and late-stage Alzheimer's. "Papa Kemp" became a beloved figure on Chef Maria's social media pages as she shared heart-warming and funny stories of their adventures.  Papa Kemp graduated to be with Jesus on July 4, 2023. 

Transition and Morph (aka Pivot)

After her mother passed, Chef Maria relocated her life (and company) to North Carolina. Beyond Decadence began as a pop-up bakery in the Lake Norman and Charlotte areas in 2017, but transitioned to dessert catering, local delivery, and nationwide shipping. The pandemic fueled Beyond Decadence's most notable morph away from dessert production and catering to DEI baking demonstrations, team building baking experiences, speaking engagements, and continuing education instruction.  

Speaking and teaching allow her passion for pastry (and diversity) to continue growing. Chef Maria is active on social media, gives back through random acts of kindness, and has been recognized as a leading entrepreneur with several awards. You may have seen her sharing baking tips during live television demos on NBC TODAY Show, Charlotte's WBTV3, and FOX 46. She’s been featured in radio segments, podcasts, magazine covers, and small business seminars.   

Chef Maria's new website redesign is courtesy of a generous donation from "The Profit's" Marcus Lemonis.