Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Art of Cake...

I've always fancied myself an artist. I didn't decide to be a chef because I wanted to cut vegetables or grill chicken all day. What I loved was the art of it all.

As a teenager I realized what I wanted to do with my life. But even I know it really started long before that. As a small child I spent all my Saturdays with my grandparents while my parents were at work. My grandmother was, and still is, a consumate cook and baker. She always encouraged me to help in her kitchen, never minding if my tiny hands messed it all up. When we (my brother and I) weren't helping in the kitchen, we were outside playing in their massive garden, or playing in the basement.

Outside in the garden I would sift buckets of dirt for hours until it was fine and airy, then mix with water and various other ingredients (grass clippings, leaves, flower petals...) until I had the most glorious of mud pies.

When the weather turned chilly, down to the basement we would go. I would turn on the little 20" TV, and watch Graham Kerr, Jaques Pepin and Julia Child for hours, all the while setting up my very own studio kitchen for my very own cooking show (remember, this was the '80's & '90's before Food Network existed).

I think even then I knew what I truly loved to do, it just never occured to me that it could be a career, especially for a woman. Back then the only woman I ever saw on a cooking show was Julia Child, and she reminded me more of a grandma in her kitchen than anything else. All the chef's I saw were men, with silver hair at their temples.

This all changed for me during high school. Food Network debuted in Canada, and I saw women like Lynn Crawford, Sara Moulton and Anna Olson cooking alongside the big boys. That's when I realized the possibilities...

...Fast forward a few years through high school Foods 101, Culinary Arts programs and a Skills Canada competition (which I won for the Region, just to toot my own horn :). I entered into a Culinary Arts program at my local College and met some wonderful and influental chefs, all whom still enter my mind on a regular basis. They truly taught me what passion for food was, and that to a true chef it is never just about the food. It is about the way the foods smell, the way they taste both individually and combined, and it's about the way they look, from start to finish. It's about a true passion, because as any chef knows, this is not a career path for the weak hearted, for the person looking to make a lot of money quickly (or at all). If you don't love it, it will burn you out, fast!

After 10 years, climbing the ranks, an executive chef's position at 22, and two babies, I was burning out too. I traded in my white's for a pair of old yoga pants and a T-shirt and entered the world of daycare, as a stay-at-home/working-mom running my own dayhome. This was not an easy decision to make. I knew what I loved, but I loved my kids more. And I started to love other peoples kids too (yeah, I get attached to these tiny humans). But something was missing...

...I had been dabbling in cakes and cupcakes for a few years, taking what I learned during my training (during both Culinary School, and my apprenticeship technical training) and applying it to birthday cakes for my children. And then for my extended family, and then family friends and friends of friends...until one day I realized that maybe this was where my heart was now. Maybe this was the best of both worlds. I could still be with my kids (all of them, I still run my dayhome :) and express my passion through my art, which was now just on a different canvas than the previous white dinner plate. I could be home during the week, and make whimsical works of art whenever I could, with the rest of my time. And thus Sugar Sweet Cake Company was born...

Me - about 3 or 4 years old :)

To be continued... :)

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