Pushing the Boundaries

Artist Tai Davis uses his creative mind to transform common ingredients into dazzling desserts.

By Moe Godat     

Portrait photography by Colin Miller/Strauss Peyton

Project photography by Tai Davis 

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Can food be considered art? For artist Tai Davis of Alchemy Bakery, that answer is a resounding yes. “Food is very personal, and for me so is my baking,” he says. “Most of the items I have created have flavor combinations that you don’t see often. Because most of the orders that I get are all customized per client, I don’t make the same things twice unless they are on my regular menu. Because of this autonomy, I am always creating something new, forcing me to constantly be evolving as a chef and artist.”

Tai has always felt an affinity for the arts, beginning at a young age with drawing animals from nature books and watching art shows on PBS. At age 11, his love for artistic endeavors widened to include classical music, for which he eventually gained a degree in music performance playing the cello. It wasn’t until after school that he was introduced to the culinary world and learned that food is a medium that he loves working with.

“I started to research and study books and videos from some of the best chefs in the world,” Tai says. “After I saw some of the pastries coming out of Japan and France, I became enthralled and a little obsessed. Aesthetically they were incredible, and conceptually complex. Once I started creating these types of desserts, I knew I had finally found my niche.”

Baking was especially interesting to this young St. Louisian because of its close ties with transformation. He takes simple items like flours, sugars, butter, eggs, etcetera, and changes them into unique works of art in the form of cakes or macarons that push the boundaries of baking. “I take these transformations a step farther with my decorating techniques and make cakes or pastries that look like they should not be real,” he notes.

His other-worldy transformations influenced his choice of name for his company, Alchemy Bakery. “I derived the name Alchemy Bakery from my fondness of alchemy and the idea of transforming one thing into something else.”

He gathers his inspiration from nostalgia, nature, books and artists that he admires. Based on his clients’ requests, he then takes these inspirations and creates a unique product with their desired flavor profiles, textures and color schemes. To make these masterpieces, Tai utilizes different tools such as molds, butane torches and his trusty airbrush gun. These elements come together to form a cohesive and pleasing custom dessert.

Tai believes that baking has become more popular over the course of the pandemic because the pace of life has slowed down immensely, giving people the time and ability to try out new recipes and create desserts that work for them. “The best advice I would give to those interested in baking would be to not fear failure. Find a mentor and read and learn as much as possible!”

To learn more about Tai and his work, visit his website at tai-davis.com or follow him on Instagram @iofthetyler.