I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Crismani of Baked Relief fame, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past five months Baked Relief was a charity relief effort started by Danielle Crismani during the recent Brisbane floods.

Baked Relief started with a tweet and grew exponentially with people all over Brisbane offering their support and their cooking skills. The purpose of Baked Relief was to help out the helpers. The kind-hearted people of Brisbane who gave of their time to go out and help clean up the streets and the homes of people affected by the flood damage.

Danielle was inundated with people wanting to help out and lend a hand even if it was just to make a cake or some sandwiches to feed the growing number of people volunteering all over our beautiful city. Her story inspired many people from all walks of life to get involved.

We at TLC Books held a bake sale and raised almost $700 for flood relief and the responses we got from that were truly inspirational so I was interested to hear more about Danielle’s experiences too. I hope you enjoy hearing a bit more about her story and that it inspires more people to get on board and help out in any way they can.

First off tell us a bit about yourself personally ?

I am a mum to three children. Corey 13, Addison 11 and Liana nine. I work full-time in a government-owned corporation and have reformed packet cake cooking into ‘baking from scratch’ action in the office. I love renovating timber houses. Anything relating to the country and the beach make me happy. I have an extremely supportive ex husband and a wonderful man I belong with. Life is good.

Did you grow up with a love of cooking/ baking ?

We lived with my grandmother most of my childhood and she was an amazing baker. Her cheese cakes, caramel tarts and fruit mince pies were always talked about. She would start preparing for Christmas with me during the September school holidays. Everything was made from scratch. Ironically I was never allowed to take control of the beaters. It is a constant memory of her sporting a house dress and an apron and being covered in flour.
I didn’t start really baking until about four years ago when I was gifted a Kitchenaid and a set of Nigella Lawson cookbooks. WOW! didn’t that change my life.

How did you come up with the idea for Baked Relief ?

I was stuck at home. I wanted to do something. I am no way fit enough to sandbag but thought if I baked something and took it down the local SES that would help. Little did I know how well received that little batch of lemon muffins would be. Thats how baked relief started.

It went viral within a matter of hours, were you surprised by how huge it all became ?

At the time I was amazed at how quickly it grew. But when you really think about it, there were so many people who wanted to do something, to make a difference and help someone else out. They were just looking for a way to do that. Baked Relief provided that.

Are you continuing your work with Baked Relief in different areas now that the massive clean up is almost finished from the floods ?

There has been so much more required than I could have ever imagined. Like cooks loosing all of their cookbooks, Brisbane restaurants suffering due to people staying home and not spending money on dinners out, that everyone’s kitchen goods would be lost and their love of baking could not be fulfilled. That’s where we have continued to help out. Projects just come up as we see the need by talking to families who have been affected.

What has been the most exciting or proud moment for you since that first post about Baked Relief ?

Hearing an elderly woman say, with tears in her eyes, that baked relief gave her a purpose. There have been other proud moments, but that is one I will never forget.

I’m sure working with relief efforts you would have seen some amazing things in the fall out from the Brisbane Floods what is a memory that stands out for you ?

Walking Turner Avenue in Fairfield was the most confronting image of the Brisbane flood. The mud, the smell but the hundreds of people working like busy bees cleaning, laughing and making community happen.

Who are your personal idols or heroes ?

My Grandmother who in the 1974 floods baked for Fairfield and surrounding areas during the clean up and recovery. Nigella Lawson of course is an idol. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have begun baking four years ago. And very recently Premier Anna Bligh. I think she will go down in history as a woman to be admired. I have also seen some amazing work meeting women and men during this baked relief journey which have brought me to tears many times with their amazing stories of overcoming life’s challenges. Everyone has a story!

What is your dream for Baked Relief long-term ?

The long-term mission is to continue to empower people to make a difference in their own world. Random acts of kindness, paying it forward, encouraging teenagers to get involved in community. For the moment this has been through immediate and short-term support to flood affected families and communities. In the longer term it’s about creating a more philanthropic society of support.
             And Finally what are you working on now ?

We are working on the cookbook for cooks project where we are encouraging people to clear out their cookbook collection and donate a few books which they no longer use or need. We are assisting families by providing gift vouchers to local (often flood affected) restaurants and look at assisting families with helping to get their kitchens set back up again. We are also looking for sponsorship and support to keep this work going.
If you want to make a difference to your own life, start by making a difference to someone elses.
You CAN change the world one cupcake at a time!

A big thank you to Danielle for taking the time to answer my questions, I hope she inspires everyone who reads this as much as she has inspired me. ( all photos courtesy of ABC via Baked Relief official website)

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