UTDailyBeacon: Girls Gotta Eat Good bakes Asian culture into every treat


Girls Gotta Eat Good Bakery is an Asian bakery that fills a niche otherwise missing in Knoxville: Asian baked goods.

Owner Jessica Carr started the bakery in September 2020 while working a full-time marketing job. She went full time with the bakery in February 2021 while doing marketing jobs on the side. She specializes in dessert items, along with other baked goods.

She started the bakery during the COVID-19 pandemic. She began baking first for friends before turning it into a full-fledged business. It gave her something to do while stuck at home.

“I was craving these Filipino desserts that my mom would make for me growing up and I just never asked her how to make them,” Carr said. “And so I was like, ‘This is a good time for me to connect with my roots and to also experiment in the kitchen.’”

She would video call her mom to get recipes before baking. She began posting the finished products on her Instagram food blog @girlsgottaeatgood, which later turned into her bakery account.

Carr started baking these desserts to connect to her heritage. Her father was part of the Air Force and her mother was from the Philippines. She moved around a lot before settling in Tennessee. Her mother’s cooking and her current baking helped Carr become familiar with her roots.

“I’m Asian American,” Carr said. “I was born and raised in the south. I’ve never been to the Philippines before. But growing up, my mom would always cook food and she would be like ‘This reminds me of home’ or ‘This is what my mom made for me,’ and those types of things are the way that I connected with that part of myself.”

Along with that, Carr started the bakery out of a demand for Asian baked goods. There aren’t many stores that offer that kind of specialty within Knoxville.

“If you try to find any Asian baked goods in Knoxville, the place that you would naturally go is Sunrise, which is the Asian market,” Carr said. “And all of the Asian markets around here, they get their baked goods from Georgia, because … there aren’t any people here that are making fresh, Asian baked goods.”

Carr fills in that niche. She has experienced positive feedback from customers, especially from the Asian American community in Knoxville. They have attributed her baking to providing a homely feeling for them.

Carr offers a variety of goods through her bakery. She tends to bake desserts seasonally, switching up her menu based on the time of year.

One of the main ingredients that she bakes with currently is ube, which is a purple Filipino yam. A favorite amongst her customers is an ube cheesecake brownie, which sells out frequently. Other dishes include matcha and white chocolate cookies, steamed puto coconut cakes and calamansi thumbprint cookies, which are made with a Filipino citrus fruit.

“It’s using Filipino ingredients to make desserts that everybody would recognize,” Carr said. “You’ve eaten like a cheesecake brownie before. But adding the ube to it kind of makes it something different, but it’s also a fusion to me of my southern roots and also my Filipino roots.”

Carr wants to settle herself within Knoxville. As a kid, she moved around several times before initially coming to Tennessee. She hopes to establish herself not just with her bakery, but with herself.

“Now I just want to plant my roots here,” Carr said. “… I would like to just stay in one place. And I think that Knoxville is perfect for that, because it’s not a small town but it’s also not a huge city, and I think that it is better because of that.”

Carr sells her treats a variety of ways. She doesn’t have a central location. Instead, she does pop-up shops and collaborations with local businesses and markets. She also offers deliveries within Knoxville for a $5 fee and food pickups. She requires customers to wear masks and makes sure to stay safe while handling food to customers.

Many small businesses helped her early on by pointing her to upcoming markets, selling her baked goods in their stores and putting in a good word for her. She talked about her relationship with small businesses.

“A lot of my support also comes from other … small business owners,” Carr said. “… I didn’t have any sort of credibility or anything, they just wanted to help me. There was no incentive for them. They just wanted to help me out, because they know what it’s like to be a small business starting out.”

Carr has appeared at various businesses and markets. She holds a pop-up location at the Old Sevier Market on the last Sunday of every month. One of her frequent locations is South Press coffee shop, located at 3715 Chapman Highway.

The owner of South Press, Joslynn Fish, spoke about working with Carr and giving her an opportunity.

“I just provide space,” Fish said. “I think that if you provide people space to thrive, they will. Every new business is faced with challenges and not everyone is always looking out to help you.”

She doesn’t take a percentage of sales from what Carr or other artisans sell at her coffee shop. She understands that offering a location and friendship helps drive business for everyone. It gives people a chance to grow.

“I believe in her,” she said. “I believe that she is a talented baker and a smart businesswoman. I think that if you’re empowered to put people in a position to elevate their business, that you should absolutely do that, because there’s enough success to go around.”

Carr has two more pop-ups planned for the month of April.

One pop-up will be in partnership with Central Cinema on April 23. She will sell Godzilla themed treats for the theater’s showing of the original 1954 “Godzilla” film. She will sell treats from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.

Their collaboration will act as a way to support local businesses, local Asian businesses and to bring awareness to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community fund.

General manager of Central Cinema Nick Huinker provided a statement about this upcoming partnership.

“Jessica’s been a friend and supporter of Central Cinema since the beginning, and we were thrilled to watch her get her bakery up and running last year,” Huinker said. “Collaboration with other local businesses is something we’ve really missed, so having her here to sling Godzilla goodies will be a real treat for both us and our customers.”

Her second pop-up will be at the Old Sevier Market on April 25. She will hold a spot there from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Overall, Girls Gotta Eat Good Asian Bakery has found success as a small local business. Along with other businesses, the Knoxville community has welcomed and supported the bakery.

In fact, she’s been successful enough to match her previous income intake with just her full-time bakery and part-time marketing jobs. Carr updates her Facebook and Instagram accounts with information about upcoming pop-up locations and orders.

Carr also has a Patreon where people can support her directly. Different tiers provide different rewards for supporters, and it’s a way to give her continuous support. She will create a personal website once she hits $500 in Patreon revenue every month.

Carr noted that she hopes to keep expanding. She also wants people to keep supporting local businesses during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would encourage everyone to just support small business,” Carr said. “All of us are working extremely hard and it’s just so important for the Knoxville community to support all those businesses. … You have the ability to help someone who this is their livelihood.”