When we first met Matcha Norwood she was quietly slinging amazing cinnamon rolls to friends under her Cinnalightful brand. Now, just a little over 2 years later her products reach every corner of the local restaurant scene.
The journey to take over the Little Rock dessert scene is a long and unexpected one. Norwood was born in the small former Dutch colony of Suriname in Paramaribo, a costal town perched on the northern edge of South America. From there Norwood moved to the Netherlands and took a job that would eventually lead her to Arkansas.
“I can promise you that I never thought of ending up in Arkansas,” Norwood says. “I was on a business trip and met Curtis (now her husband) and thought ‘Hey, he is cute’. So I made sure to book a return trip to see him again. Next thing you know I am living in Arkansas.”
Some time after moving, Norwood began making cinnamon rolls for her husband’s work. It quickly led to more and more people asking where to get them. Soon she started making them and selling them to all sorts of people, which is about the time we met her.
She then approached the people at Sharks about selling her cinnamon rolls.
“They loved the cinnamon rolls, but told me if I could do cheesecakes that I could just do all the desserts for them,” Norwood says. “I had never made cheesecakes before. The first couple were a hot mess. But I just kept working and perfecting it until it was great.”
The cheesecakes took off big, and quickly became the bulk of her business. She needed to expand out of her home into a commercial kitchen, that is when she found ARKitchen and now uses that as a home base.
She continued to pick up more and more accounts once the word of the cheesecakes got out. Where she was once producing 50 or so a week, she is now looking at having to scale to 200 a day. She went from booking ARKitchen for an hour a day to now using it almost all day.
The roster of customers has grown too. She now provides for many of the Yellow Rocket Concept restaurants (Local Lime, Big Orange, etc…), Raduno, Nexus coffee, Zeteo, Abbi’s Tea, Kemuri, and many others. She will soon be providing products through Sysco so even more restaurants can carry her desserts.
It is no surprise that the products have taken off either. Norwood’s personality is as addictive as her products. It is something that people notice quick.
“I have been fortunate to never feel that being a woman, or even a black woman has worked against me,” Norwood says. “As soon as I open my mouth and people hear my accent or my big laugh everything else fades into the background. My customers have been wonderful.”
She has grown to add french macarons that have been increasing in demand since offering them a few months ago. She also hopes to eventually add some Dutch pastries that she fell in love with during her time in the Netherlands and are hard to find here. Mostly though, she wants to educate and teach people how to cook.
“I love teaching, it is where my real passion is,” Norwood expresses. “The cooking classes are something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I love working with people and teaching them how to do something I am passionate about and that we both enjoy. It is almost therapy for me.”
Norwood held her first macaron cooking class this past Wednesday and has another this Saturday (tickets are still available). She hopes to continue to offer more and give back to the community. Spending more than five minutes with her, you realize it was something she was born to do.
Her personality shines bigger than any other and it shows in what she does. It is found in the quality of the food and her teaching style.
Also, you can thank her husband Curtis for being cute next time you have a cheesecake for dessert in central Arkansas. The state would have never known Matcha and her amazing desserts without it.