Henrico woman competing for ‘Mrs. Holiday’ title

Emma Bindas

When Emma Bindas met her husband, Jozef Bindas, head baker and owner of Jean Jacques Bakery in Cary Town, she didn’t know how to bake a loaf of bread, let alone a cake. Now they sell her version of a French Christmas cake, buche de noule, in the shop.

“I learned to cook starting at the age of three,” she said. “My grandmother and my mom taught me everything about cooking. I can cook anything from every country, however they never taught me anything about baking at all. I met my husband, and he owns a bakery in Richmond, and I’m very competitive so I was like, ‘Ok I’m going to show him.’ Now I have to learn.”

Emma Bindas is competing in Taste of Home’s Mrs. Holiday contest with the Buche De Noule recipe she learned from her mother-in-law last January while visiting on a trip celebrating her recent nuptials to Jozef.

“She’s the one who kind of gave me the real recipe,” she said. “He does it like off of his head because he knows, but she gave me the golden paper.”

To make the cake Bindas first cooks thin layers of vanilla cake on sheet trays. She lets that cool and then makes an orange liqueur whipped cream using Grand Marnier, orange juice and pieces of orange peel. After applying the cream, she roles the sheet into a log shape and ices it with a Madagascar vanilla bean butter cream. She uses a fork to scrape a bark texture into the butter cream and then adorns the log with sugar mushrooms and leaves.

Buche De Noule translates to a log of Christmas, and is a log you’d find in the forest, Bindas explained.

“It’s a very European thing,” she said. “He [Jozef] made it with chocolate cake, with raspberry and then iced it in chocolate. So I said, ‘Wait a minute, I got to do my own thing,’ which is why I said, ‘Oy Grand Marnier, let’s do that.’ So I made my own version. So now I make it for him and he sells both of them at the store.”

Both Emma and Jozef Bindas are European and from culinary families. Emma was born in Piedmont, Italy and immigrated to New York when she was 13 years old. Her family ran several restaurants in Italy.

“My dad, my mom, my brother, we’re all chefs without papers,” she said. “Food is always the center of our family and we love the kitchen, we love food and we love passion.”

Jozef Bindas is one of eleven children of Regins and Dymitri Bindas, who were stolen from Russia by the Nazis and imprisoned at Auschwitz concentration camp, where they met.

After liberation, the Polish government sent the Bindas family a letter with the amount they would receive every month in reparation. The amount went to pay for housing and to fulfill their dream of opening a restaurant where they could prepare traditional Russian and Polish dishes, including hearty stews. Buche de Noule was on the menu.

Emma Bindas took the letter to the Richmond Holocaust Museum for validation. A copy now hangs in the museum.

If Emma Bindas wins the title of Mrs. Holiday, she would become the official holiday spokeswoman for Taste of Home and be awarded $50,000. She would appear at Taste of Home events and cooking schools, participate in interviews and cooking segments, and contribute regularly to the magazine.

She said she didn’t know about the award money when she submitted her recipe, but that if she won she would give the money to her husband to put back into the bakery to hire additional help.

“He has so many ideas, but with the economy and everything it’s hard to find people who graduate from culinary institutes because they require obviously a good salary,” she said. “He’s already spread pretty thin with trying to do everything and everything he does is awesome, but I know he could do so much more.”

The winner of the Mrs. Holiday contest will be selected from the top 100 entries that receive the most votes from the public through the Mrs. Holiday Search mobile app on Taste of Home’s Facebook page. Voting ends Sept. 7. A panel of experts will select the grand-prize winner.
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