This article is the second installment of the “Demons on Fire” series, which highlights the accomplishments of NSU students and recent graduates. The series is developed by NSU’s Office of Marketing and Branding and the NSU News Bureau.
Student, content creator and entrepreneur Alayna Bush graduated this summer from Northwestern State University’s Hospitality Management and Tourism program where she concentrated in culinary arts. But she didn’t wait to complete her studies before using skills she learned in marketing and HMT to launch her own creative baking business, The Golden Whisk, which is now her full-time occupation.
Bush arrived at NSU in 2019 after graduating from Dutchtown High School in Prairieville and worked her way through college, most recently as marketing and events assistant at Cane River National Heritage Area where she was responsible for social media content. As a capstone internship project, Bush spearheaded Natchitoches Film Trail 2.0, which incorporates technology and social media with the “Steel Magnolias” self-guided walking tour in Natchitoches. Signage that will be installed later this year will guide visitors to sites where scenes from “Steel Magnolias” were filmed. Film tourists can download the Setjetters app to watch the scenes and get more information about the location.
Bush was a recent Lunchtime Lagniappe speaker at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum where she discussed Natchitoches Film Trail 2.0 and how it will enhance film tourism. The app will grow to include scenes from other locally filmed movies “The Horse Soldiers,” “The Man in the Moon” and “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”
Locally, Bush may be better known as the baker behind The Golden Whisk, her dessert business that features creative takes on cookies, cake pops, cheesecakes and other treats made from scratch. She is the daughter of NSU alumni Van and Paula Waltman Bush, who met at NSU and earned business degrees in 1991. She was drawn to NSU because of family ties to the school and the area. When not working, baking and building her brand, Bush enjoys walks with her dog Beauregard, who partially inspired the name of her business.
Bush sat down in the HMT culinary arts lab, where she spent many hours as a student, to chat about baking, creating beautiful and engaging social media content and how she hopes to grow her business. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
When did you start baking?
Alayna: I’ve always baked. My grandmother loves to bake, and she’s always wanted to bake with me and try new things. That’s what sparked my interest in baking.
What’s your favorite thing to bake?
Alayna: Cookies! Stuffed cookies, particularly. I got the idea from Caroline’s Cookies in Lafayette. Her cookies are chef’s kiss and I didn’t see that Natchitoches had that, so I created something different here and went with it. I decided to turn it into a business in October 2022. I woke up one day and was just like, I think I’m going to do this as a business, just as a side hustle, get through college and just do it for fun and it turned into much more than I could have expected.
Did you get a lot of encouragement from your customers?
Alayna: Yes, I did, and that was one of the best things I could have received when starting a business, because at first, it’s like, I don’t know where this is going to go but it was definitely for the best that I started this business.
How did you come up with the name?
Alayna: I have a golden retriever and he sparked the golden part and a whisk makes what I love: desserts. And I thought, “The Golden Whisk,” a combination of two things I love, my dog and a whisk.
Do you have other culinary specialties, or is baking your main focus?
Alayna: Baking is my main focus. Anything I try to cook it either burns or doesn’t cook, so I try to stay out of the kitchen.
Tell us about the cookies.
Alayna: The cookies I make are all stuffed with something different. They can be customized for whatever party customers want, the colors and all that. I have over 20 flavors, which is a lot because it takes a lot of heart and dedication to create these cookies and lots of time to make sure they come out good. Today I have S’mores stuffed with s’mores, Oreo and marshmallow. Party Animal is a funfetti-based cookie. They are all different and they are all unique and they are all made with extra love.
What are some of you other specialties?
Alayna: One of my popular items is Chantilly Shooters and it’s almond cake with a homemade raspberry jam and fresh fruit. It’s really good and it’s topped with Chantilly icing and more fresh fruit. It’s definitely the light treat that everybody craves.
What are some memorable experiences you had in HMT?
Alayna: All my culinary classes were definitely memorable for me. We spent time in the kitchen baking up new things, learning different techniques and recipes. That was very interesting to me, and I had the most fun times in this kitchen.
How did you get connected with the Cane River National Heritage area?
Alayna: In the summer of 2022 I was looking for a job and I was very interested in marketing and saw they had a job posted. I was interested in learning about the history of Natchitoches, so it was a win-win. I was there for a year and three months, but now we are on to The Golden Whisk.
What have been some surprising aspects of owning your own business?
Alayna: The growth. I didn’t expect to grow as tremendously as it did, and it’s led me to dedicate my time fulltime to it which I never expected starting this in October. I thought it was going to be a side business and now it’s a fulltime job for me.
What inspires you, either in the kitchen, with social media content or in life?
Alayna: My goals inspire me the most. I’m always trying to reach them and trying to get a hold of them, and I think that’s the most inspiring thing for me. I’m always trying to achieve something that’s right for me.
Working at CRNA gave you an opportunity to connect this area’s rich history with today’s technology. Can you talk about that?
Alayna: It’s quite interesting because a lot of the stuff that we find dates back to several years ago and we are able to digitize it and make it shareable to our community on social media, which everybody loves to see. One of my main projects this summer was “Steel Magnolias.” Although it was filmed 35 years ago, we found newspapers, memorabilia and all sorts of stuff and were able to showcase online and connect with our community.
I started working on this at the beginning of May. I had never watched “Steel Magnolias” despite living here for four years. I got more familiar with the movie, with the scenes that were shot around town. It was interesting seeing a lot of the famous stars in our little town. I was able to engage 1 million people through social media. It was super impressive to see the results. Thirty-five years later, people are still interested in “Steel Magnolias.” I think it’s going to benefit the community so much. It’s something different that Natchitoches doesn’t have and for us to be able to include all the movie trails is great. It’s going to bring in a lot of tourists for sure.
What are your plans for the future?
Alayna: My plans for the future are to continue working fulltime on The Golden Whisk and dedicating all my time to making this business the best it can be. Several years down the road I plan to have a storefront, but right now a homebased cottage bakery is where I am.
What do you love about baking?
Alayna: The taste testing! I’m a sweet-a-holic. I love sweets. And I also love seeing smiles on my customers’ faces when they pick up. It’s important to me because they love it just as much as me.