While Fort Wayne’s food trucks serve up everything from tacos to Korean BBQ to grilled cheese sandwiches, most share one thing in common: men own them.
But as for the cheerful yellow and blue converted van, painted like a circus tent, that one belongs to Ms. Hetty Arts. The Hetty Arts Pastry truck travels the city to events, offices, and popular hangouts.
She hails from the Netherlands, and her name is the name of her business, Hetty Arts Pastry.
As a full-time Fort Wayne resident for the past two years, she’s living out her passion by baking scratch-made donuts and pastries for local customers.
But she didn’t start out with that mission in mind.
As a student at Ohio State University, Arts was studying interior design. She was struggling with her courses until her mother, Helma Arts, saw the creative mind in her daughter and gave her life-changing advice: study baking instead.
“I don’t recall really ever considering it before then,” Arts says. “She thought I’d have a skill that could take me to employment anywhere in the world.”
And mother knew best. Arts changed schools to the Cincinnati Midwest Culinary Institute, where she majored in pastry.
While she excelled in her studies, she also worked full-time as a student and found that she learned more on the job than in the classroom.
Her first job was at The Palace in the Cincinnatian Hotel, and then at The Netherland Hilton, coincidentally, where she found a mentor in the pastry chef there.
After that, she did stints at Joseph Decuis in Roanoke, Indiana, as well as in other kitchens around New York City and Chicago to hone her craft in specialty desserts. In those years, she worked at places like the swanky and award-winning Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan.
Hetty Arts makes all kinds of donuts from Sour Cream Old Fashioneds to these festive Rainbow Sprinkle Cakes.
Arts eventually relocated to Chicago in 2011 to find new teachers and expand her skills. While there, she learned how to do plated desserts using techniques like molecular gastronomy to understand the chemical transformation of ingredients or spherification to turn liquids into gelatinous spheres bursting with flavor.
But in the stressful world of high-end restaurants, Arts wasn’t sure what her next step should be.
Once again, her mom’s advice came in handy: What about a food truck?
“I thought, ‘Really? What about my parking skills, Mom?’” Arts jokes.
Makayla Coonce (front) and Hetty Arts put the final touches of frangiapanne filling on their croissants.
But her mother found a converted cargo van on Craigslist in South Carolina, so Arts gambled and put down a deposit on it. Then she and her folks drove the van back to Fort Wayne.
Her brother, Jan Arts, helped upgrade the truck to accommodate her needs, and she had the colorful wrap put on. Today, she drives it to all sorts of community events and locations, and even parallel parks it herself.
When she’s not in the truck, Arts works from a shared kitchen space at the Cookspring on campus of The Summit in Fort Wayne. There, she and her right-hand assistant, Makayla Coonce, have room to whip up dozens of macarons, hundreds of donuts, and countless tasty treats throughout the week. Hetty Arts is passionate about baking finely crafted pastries, like her delightful apple fritters.
Arts says it takes about 400 donuts to fill up the brightly colored truck, and it takes about four hours to sell out of 400 donuts.
Practice has taught her that she needs about 6-7 hours ahead of departure to make the pastries, so they’re selling at peak of flavor.
Regardless of the workload, she is driven by a ceaseless passion for baking itself.
“No matter how much I do, or how often, this is still what I love to do,” Arts says. “I have no idea how many times I’ve rolled out dough really thin, and I still love it. I’ve done apple fritters thousands of times, and it’s still amazing.”
Before she had the truck, Arts set up a booth at the 2015 Barr Street Farmers’ Market where she brought 48 made-from-scratch donuts, which promptly sold out and earned her the nickname: “the Donut Lady.”
“I love it,” Arts says, giggling. “I am the Donut Lady.”
Since then, her success at the farmers market has introduced her to what can only be described as her legion of loyal fans.
One of her frequent patrons, Wendy Stein, says she appreciates Arts’s product not only because it is top-notch, but also because of how genuine and friendly the baker is.
“It’s always interesting to meet the producer when you’re buying locally, but not everyone is as engaging as Hetty,” Stein says. “She makes everyone feel like they’re her best friend.”
Along with her signature donuts, Hetty Arts is known for her friendly demeanor.
Working in kitchens around the country, Arts realized that the chef in charge of the kitchen sets its vibe. For her business, she wants the energy to be “positive, friendly and focused on fun.” But she doesn’t shy away from a challenge either.
“I welcome challenges,” Arts says. “One of my favorite things is when someone says, ‘I’m not sure you can do this.’”
Looking to the future, Arts says she isn’t interested in having a storefront operation, but her mother recently suggested getting a second truck.
Given her mom’s string of good advice, no one will be surprised if a second brightly colored pastry van is rolling through the streets of Fort Wayne soon.
Find the Donuts
The Hetty Arts Pastry truck runs year-round and announces its locations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Other places you can find Hetty Arts pastries include:
- Thursdays: HT2 serves Hetty Arts Donuts and cocktails.
- Fridays: Mocha Lounge features Hetty Arts Donuts.
- Saturdays: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the YLNI Barr Street Market in the summer, or at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market at Parkview Field in the winter.
- Sundays: Teds market serves Hetty Arts pastries with brunch.
- All week: Conjure Coffee serves Hetty Arts products.
For more information about Hetty Arts Pastry, visit her website at hettyartspastry.com.