Carrie Cohen is immediately confessional. “To be completely honest, I don’t have an organized method to the madness,” she says of her business. Cohen moved to Los Angeles with a film degree and planned to do something in entertainment—she just didn’t know what. While an assistant temp, she watched calendar pages turn and wondered what to do with herself. There was no Doc Brown-like character to take her “back to the future” of The Pudding Truck catering origin story—but she would find her way.
Eventually, a hefty dose of youthful naiveté pushed Carrie Cohen from film to food. “The biggest challenge I face is confidence,” she says, referring to lingering insecurity about being the face of her brand. “That’s the thing I need to focus on building in myself.” But she’s being modest. While working as a temp, Cohen also published a small food blog. She loved that desserts offered lots of room for exploring flavor. She also read books about food truck businesses, and, while she may have missed the food truck’s first wave of popularity, she saw an industry still hungry for unique ideas. And pudding was unique.
The Pudding Truck catering menu revolves around popular flavors that Cohen refers to as “the big three”—vanilla, chocolate, and butterscotch. To perfect her signature flavors, she tested standard and vegan recipes with academic-like rigor. “There are very few flavors simultaneously warm, spicy, and creamy, like vanilla,” she says of her first pudding creation, which is pumped with both vanilla extract and bean paste. Toppings enhance the flavor without overwhelming its complexity. Her chocolate pudding combines milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and cocoa powder. It’s interesting and layered, but not too bitter for children to love. Her butterscotch possesses a brown butter base, with punchy wood notes of single-malt Scotch to complement the caramel. It almost sounds as if Cohen is talking about perfume.
As The Pudding Truck catering business grew, Cohen realized she “came to this with some pretty strong instincts—but not a lot of business acumen.” (She is not yet 30.) Business consultants became her “makeshift business school,” she said. A bookkeeper helped her reorganize and become more efficient. The Pudding Truck catering rebrand provided more sophistication and broadened her audience appeal. “I completely underestimated how important emphasis in that area would be,” she says of her decision to step back from food development and manage her business more closely.
Growing up—as a business, and a business owner—takes time. Cohen marvels when anyone takes an interest in her, “especially as a female business owner,” but is not sure why. Maybe she’s caught in the age-old conundrum of many female entrepreneurs. “I have a big fear of coming across as self-aggrandizing or arrogant,” she says, “which is not a good thing to have as a business person, but is a common fear to have as a woman.” While women have more support than ever in the food world, Cohen’s fears aren’t unwarranted. Harvard Business Review revealed that female entrepreneurs receive only 2 percent of venture capital funding, despite owning 38 percent of businesses in the U.S. Female entrepreneurs are asked different questions in funding interviews, too. “Hopefully that’s something I’ll be able to just get over, and step up, and do,” Cohen says of her increased confidence as The Pudding Truck catering business continues to grow. “It’s exciting that people care and want to know about my business.”
Fortunately, with The Pudding Truck catering, Carrie Cohen delivers an outstanding product. One she believes in. One that, whether she can look back and recognize it clearly or not, she chose with an entrepreneurial eye. “I love that pudding is sort of weird,” says Cohen. She’s in confessional mode again. “It’s not esoteric, but it’s interesting. I can’t think of many foods that are simultaneously both of those things,” she adds. “That’s what I love so much about pudding. Pudding is a little bit of an underdog.”
Get your fill of Cohen’s signature vanilla, chocolate, and butterscotch puddings.