Imagine dedicating your life to a love of food.
Now imagine losing your sense of taste and smell after contracting COVID-19. That’s exactly the scenario that Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Hannalee Pervan secretly faced for the past seven months until recently sharing her struggle on social media. But from the outside, no one could have guessed that the owner of beloved Benicia staple, One House Bakery, was dealing with such an affliction.
On August 19th of this year, One House Bakery was honored as the 14th Assembly District’s 2021 Small Business of the Year, by the California Small Business Association. Just a year ago, One House Bakery was making national headlines for the whimsical life-size bread sculptures Pervan created in tribute to The Mandalorian. The bakery was even featured on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan.
While the bakery has flourished, Pervan revealed she has been suffering from “parosmia” which makes foods she used to love smell and taste putrid.
“I am full of anxiety every time I eat because I don’t know what will taste like burning that day. I have spent the last ten years deeply focused on training my palate to pick up on the most subtle nuances of food, and now I can’t tell the difference between raspberry and strawberry,” Pervan wrote. She described the loss as “jarring” and reported experiencing severe mood swings, vertigo and depression. She now relies on memory to make her recipes from scratch and is supported by her team at One House to taste-test everything before it goes out.
Although challenging, it is not surprising that the staff of One House Bakery has rallied behind their leader in this way.
It is, in fact, the very ethos of the name “One House.” Per their website, Pervan describes choosing the name, “In many bakeries, there is a divide between the front and back of the house. We want our employees to feel like a team and become ‘One House.’ We want our customers to know everything is made under ‘One House’ and we want them to feel at home.”
It is exactly that desire to build community that saved Pervan from despair, though it is not to say it’s been an easy road. She describes crying in her mother’s arms one day and her mother gently telling her that she may have lost her own personal happiness in food – but that she hadn’t lost the ability to provide happiness to others through her food. Pervan shares that it is her joy of feeding her staff and community that keeps her going.