(and Pearls and Agate and Flower Petals)
Photos by Alchemy Confections
His niece was graduating from high school, so D’Mitri Agnes decided to make cookies to celebrate. They were such a big hit that his friends and family suggested he sell them–so that’s exactly what he did. And Alchemy Confections Co. was born.
Now, from a shared kitchen space in the South Valley Economic Development Center, a small business incubator, Agnes is plotting to take the Albuquerque sweets scene by storm–one gorgeous Instagram post at a time. With a thoughtful combination of stunning visuals, strategic marketing, and carefully curated ingredients, the Albuquerque native has built a business from scratch with his meticulously designed bakery creations.
He’s taken an unconventional road to get here, though. Agnes was studying law at Harvard and gearing up for a magistrate court internship in Albuquerque after stints at other legal entities when his plans took a sharp left turn after he began experimenting with cookies. And though Agnes’ father was everything from a behavioral health psychologist to an NBA official–career adventuring runs in the family–initially, his relatives were surprised. He said, “Most of my family is here–they thought it was so random. They know me from cooking, like I love to cook,” but “Desserts are so much more romantic, and there are a lot more sensual elements you can incorporate into a dessert than something savory.” After he partnered up with his cake-baking friend Jessica Romero and snagged a wholesale request from Spur Line Supply Co., the chic local goods emporium in the Sawmill District, he decided to go all in. “It seems very serendipitous–I knew not a thing about baking,” Agnes said.
One look at the images on Alchemy’s website suggests otherwise. It’s a millennial’s dream of precisely crafted treats and aesthetic elements. There are cookies draped in technicolor marbled icing. There are delicate flower petals, tiny pearls and gold accents. Lollipops in flavors like pistachio-rose, horchata and Bellini. There’s even a heart-shaped cake made of Valrhona dark chocolate, ganache and walnuts and encased in geometric Guittard white chocolate. When I spoke to Agnes, Alchemy had stopped taking Valentine’s day orders because they had too many to keep up with.
“People really love what we’re doing,” Agnes said, “and they’re seeing these sorts of things elsewhere on Instagram, especially among Australian bakers and confectioners, who are killing it.” Agnes counts these international influencers among his inspirations, along with the themes he’s considering for the upcoming spring menu: metallics, florals, brujería and the metaphysical. “Just really fun, creepy witchy stuff, I love all of that,” Agnes said.
Along with the seasonal menu, Agnes is also launching a wedding division called Alchemy Atelier, which will feature more of the confectioner’s visually stunning, highly curated offerings. And they’ve already booked their first wedding. “I was really intimidated by that at first,” Agnes said. “Especially for women it’s like the most important day of their life aside from birthing a child, and so I’m like ‘Oh, that is such intense pressure.’” But Agnes said they’ve been embraced by the wedding community and others eager to provide unique options for New Mexico weddings.
But in Albuquerque, getting the right balance is key. Agnes is from here, so he knows how important it is to strike a happy medium between specialty and accessibility. “The struggle is to frame it so it doesn’t seem pretentious since we’re not about that here.” He said. “We really do enjoy bringing things to people that they might have never seen before–new flavors, new shapes, new aesthetics. The point is not to seem out of anyone’s reach.” He does this by sourcing locally whenever possible, with lavender from Los Poblanos; Parker’s Farm and Greenhouse for floral garnishes; Heidi’s Raspberry Farm for jams; and N.M. Prickly Pear’s jellies; in addition to comparing local prices at comparable businesses.
For Agnes, though, being in his hometown community is key. “I think a lot of people here have this idea that maybe this is not the place where you would find the sorts of things that we make and I wanted our product to be aspirational and beautiful and sensual but also to seem accessible as well,” he said. “I’ve lived all over, been all over. I think I have an interesting aesthetic and perspective and I really wanted to bring that to my home city. I love it here, and it’s something that was missing.”
It comes down to this: Agnes wants to bring his customers in Burque the best of the best, and he’ll source roses from Pakistan and marigolds from Egypt to do it. Mostly though, he relies on himself. Photos are taken with his iphone, and his graphic design skills formed the website and promotional material. “I’m a Virgo.” He tells me. “I’m type A, so I’m extremely particular, but I think that pays off. I’m always like ‘what would Beyoncé do? Would she settle for this angle? I think not.’ Sometimes we just have to rework everything and I think that extra effort pays off.” The effort is clear: just look at one of those cookies. Surely Beyoncé would approve.
Sophie Putka is a Massachusetts transplant in love with New Mexico. She writes, makes lattes, and haunts Albuquerque eateries in search of a good bagel. She can usually be found in the kitchen trying to use up as many leftovers as possible and plotting her next adventure.