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Ingredients for success: Milwaukee baker serves up so much more than sweet treats

Posted at 1:14 PM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 14:14:36-05

MILWAUKEE — At a commercial kitchen in Milwaukee, we find Martha Austin stirring up one of her specialty cakes.

Austin is also affectionately known as "Memah." Her secret ingredients are love and faith.

"I float like a butterfly sting like a bee, ain't nobody greater than the Jesus in me," Memah says. Her treats, "Memah's Gourmet Delights," adorn the shelves of several local stores.

"I don't know if you can see my muscles, these came body by cakes," exclaims Memah with a laugh.

Memah is a minister and a motivator and shares her wisdom with young adults. Wright has worked with Memah for about 6 years and has learned a lot of lessons.

"If I apply myself, I can achieve anything that I want," he says. "She has a spirit of mentorship about her. I admire [Memah]. That's one of her strong qualities."

18-year-old Donovan Jackson has been cooking with Memah for about two years.

"I learned how hard it was, rather than buying Duncan Hines over at the Pick N Save. It's a big difference," Jackson explains. "Got to have high concentration, lots of energy and stay focused. You will be loved, and you will love these desserts we make."

You may see her employees at local stores inviting customers to try her confectioner concoctions. Austin says Jackson does a pretty good imitation of her in-store sales pitch.

"I was getting ready to brief them and Donovan was telling them, 'oh no, you can get a Little Debbie if you like, but there's no preservatives in this.' He was so good we sold out of everything except one cake," Memah says with a chuckle.

Donovan's mom, Tarakeet Jackson, says Memah as an amazing role model.

"She really gives them that love and that energy and takes that out to the community and shares that love with customers," Tarakeet says. "I am very grateful my son could have had anyone to learn work skills and ethics, but he's learning how to really value the work that he does and how to promote it in the community."

Tarakeet is grateful for the real-life lessons her son is getting.

"It's given him the confidence to write those essays and go on those interviews," she says. "When he goes to look for his next job interview, during college or after college he can share those experiences that he had with Memah. They'll not only see that in his confidence, but they will see that in his work ethic that he's developing here."

"What you give out comes back. What I'm doing at this age is building a legacy so that for my grandchildren, my nieces, my nephews, this positive stuff that I'm giving will come back to them and you'll always remember Memah," says Donovan.

"It's so good Donovan I could kiss myself!" Memah jokes as she mixes up her precious batter.

Donvan's response: "Don't do that Memah."

They laugh heartily.

Despite the jovial atmosphere Martha Austin is serious about quality control.

"I don't play when it comes to my product. There are certain standards. If you can't embrace what I'm doing, then maybe you need to move to Little Debbie's," Memah says.

She reminds us all that we can feast on the banquet of advice we get in life.

"My mom used to teach me that whatever you are, be the best," Memah says.

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