How I Gather

Bringing people together around a table is our greatest passion in life and we believe food is one of the most powerful tools for connection. In our series, How I Gather we go behind the scenes with our favorite foodies to see how they do it. See All

There are people who emanate a certain light, warmth, and (dare I say) sweetness that glows from within. It’s effortless—a natural outpouring of their true essence. Within five minutes of meeting Laurel Gallucci, I knew she was just such a person. The way she welcomed me into the charming Los Angeles bungalow she shares with her family made me want to drop everything and stay all day.

As the co-founder and CEO of Sweet Laurel Bakery, Laurel’s is a career I’ve long admired. She started the company years ago after being diagnosed with an aggressive autoimmune disease and being told she could never eat cake again. As a passionate baker and dessert lover, the diagnosis sent her on a journey to learn how to bake with whole food ingredients. Today, Sweet Laurel is famous for carrying the most delicious baked goods that are grain-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free. (When I had my first bite of a Sweet Laurel Cinnamon Roll with Frosting, my mind was completely blown.)

I stopped by the Sweet Laurel cottage one sunny morning last month for an early Friendsgiving brunch that Laurel hosted for a few of the amazing women on her team. It was a true celebration of friendship and great food—and her backyard garden shaded by olive trees and rosemary was straight out of a dream.

Scroll on for my interview with Laurel, her persimmon-covered Friendsgiving table, and the meal’s nourishing and indulgent menu.

How did you learn to cook?

Growing up, I taught myself how to cook. Starting in 4th grade, I had a strong attraction to baking and cooking for my family. It started with my science experiment in 4th grade, “The Effect of Yeast on Bread Making.” And so it continued…

I would make cookies after school for family and friends and make dinner for my family at least one night a week. As I got older, the interests continued, and you would find me with beach reads like Cook’s Illustrated or Fine Cooking in high school and college. When I got married, I bought a cookbook and literally made nearly every recipe in it for dinners over the course of two years.

Fast forward to being diagnosed with an aggressive autoimmune condition, and things changed quickly. I got so sick I was forced to quit my job as a school teacher due to lack of energy. I began working with a functional medical doctor who put me on a strict grain-free, dairy-free, legume-free and refined sugar-free diet. My love for food and baking continued throughout this time, and I started to cook and bake with ingredients I could eat. I was so grateful for the backbone of understanding I had from years prior. I literally made every meal from scratch, using ingredients I could eat, and my body started to heal.

What informs your approach to food?

I take a food-as-nourishment approach and think of what the food is doing for us from a nutrient perspective. At Sweet Laurel, we’ve created food that is macro-nutrient balanced, filled with good fats and protein that are working for you. 

Tell us about your home. what’s your favorite part of the space?

This space is very special—we call it the #sweetlaurelcottage. We created the home to embody the brand in every way, with a Santa Monica meets Sussex quality. Most people see the kitchen in our videos and Instagram content, and that space really embodies the heart of the home. It is filled with light, with the windows looking out to the garden. I love the indoors as much as I love the outdoors, and a cottage garden was a must. We are blessed with a corner lot, and maximized the space to be an indooroutdoor entertaining space. I think during the pandemic we hosted about seven baby showers because the outside space is that great! It’s also become my zen, working on the garden between calls and getting that much needed outside time in every day. 

How did your business come to be? Tell us the story and inspiration behind it.

It all started with cake! I brought a slice of grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free cake to my dear friend Claire’s house one evening. She could not believe it was delicious and also happened to be paleo and gluten-free! She turned to me and said, “What are we doing with this?” She knew it was very special and saw the beautiful brand and deliciousness ahead!

Get the recipe for Laurel’s famous Sweet Laurel Cinnamon Rolls.

What does a great gathering look like for you?

I love starting with a great centerpiece, even if it’s simple, usually from the garden, and going from there. For more formal gatherings, I like to entertain with candles and love making place cards for every guest. I have a few sets of china that I love, mostly vintage and I love pairing them with great linens (always from Heather Taylor Home!). I like to keep it simple, yet elegant.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up to my two-and-a-half-year-old next to my bed asking to make him pancakes. We make pancakes often at our house and it’s one of our newest products!

After we make pancakes or whatever we are making for breakfast, we get ready for the day. I work from home about 50% of the time, but also have meetings off-site or at our cake shop in Los Angeles. I work until 4 p.m. each day, and then spend time with my children until bedtime. We make dinner together almost every night and if the timing is right, take a relaxing walk around the neighborhood before our dinner and bedtime routine.

Sweet Laurel Bakery Vegan Scone Mix

What are three products you love for the table and why? 

Heather Taylor linens. I love all of them, collect them, and do not entertain without them!

Vintage china is a favorite of mine for the table. Etsy and eBay have great pieces if you don’t have access to good thrift stores. Also, if china is not your thing, our everyday dinnerware is Year and Day. They have a gorgeous selection!

Good napkin rings. I have found most of mine at estate saleconsignment shops. I love my silver napkins rings used today. These are simple yet elegant. 

Our outdoor furniture has been a game changer for the last two years when we have primarily entertained only outdoors. These Serena and Lily chairs are my favorites!

What’s your must-have cooking tool and why? 

Good quality, non-toxic cookware.  I use cookware I received at our wedding over 10 years ago and it’s still going strong!

What are your favorite cookbooks and why?

The Sweet Laurel Cookbooks of course ;). Our books are a great resource for those looking for delicious and wholesome food. Everything is grain-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free!

What are a few things we’ll always find in your refrigerator?

House-made almond milk, tons of veggies (lots of greens and cruciferous), and cultured butter.

What scares you about entertaining?

I think I get nervous that I won’t be prepped enough to actually enjoy the gathering, so I try to get prep time in and be as set up as possible when guests arrive!

what are Your signature dishes for gatherings?

Sweet Laurel cake, cookies, and brownies will be found at every gathering at my house.

what’s your go-to weeknight meal?

Kale and baked eggs! It’s a super simple, one-pan meal! I actually made this for our Friendsgiving gathering.

what advice would you share with someone who wants to host on a budget?

Ask the guests to chip in and bring something potluck-style!

Favorite question to get to know someone?

I usually ask “are you based in LA” or “how do you know _____” if we are gathering through a mutual friend.

The perfect dinner party playlist includes:

I’m into classical. For gatherings, I love classical versions of modern songs like what Vitamin String Quartet creates.

Go-to centerpiece solution:

Foraged greenery from the garden! Olive branches make great centerpieces.

What is your no-stress party rule to live by? 

Perfect planning prevents party mishaps 🙂

Sweet Laurel Bakery Pancake Mix

Dream dinner guests?

Honestly, my family. I adore my parents, siblings, and their partners as well as my husband’s family.

Sweet Laurel Bakery Pumpkin Spice Caramel Cake

Fill in the blank:

A perfect meal should have a good amount of veggies.

It’s not a dinner party without CAKE.

Every cook should know how to sauté or roast veggies.

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Teal Thomsen