By Emma Kushnir, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University
Elizabeth Hodgins’ adventure in baking started at Niagara College in the Baking and Pastry Arts program. There, she learned how to make everything from wedding cakes to French macarons. While going to school, she also worked in the pastry department of Queen’s Landing an award-winning hotel in Niagara-On-The-Lake. After finishing her program, she returned to her hometown of Perth, Ontario to work at the Fieldhouse Bakery & Takeaway. She has also started doing private pastry work in her own business called Elizabeth’s Pastries.
At the Fieldhouse. Elizabeth works nights as a baker -- making cookies, squares and pastries. She explains that “Fieldhouse has an emphasis on supporting local farmers, and using natural ingredients in their baking. I personally feel that a product can only ever be as good as the ingredients you use to make it. Therefore the opportunity to work in an environment with people who have a similar philosophy about food is very satisfying. Despite being in the early days of my job here, I already feel right at home and am happy to go to work every day.” As for her future goals, while working at Fieldhouse she hopes to continue to learn and absorb everything she can, as well as be involved through the next year’s wedding season in the newly launched wedding cakes part of the business.
There are many special skills involved in the profession of baking. A crucial one is organization. According to Elizabeth “If you are messy, unorganized, or careless you will not succeed in the pastry industry. Attention to detail is a must. For my current job I think the eagerness to learn and absorb information is also vital. Multitasking. Creativity. And an understanding of the science of baking…all crucial.”
When asked why she loves baking and her job, Elizabeth explains that it is the perfect combination of art, skill and science. “Pastry is much more than throwing everything in a bowl and turning on the mixer. The order that ingredients are combined and react together, the way you handle your mixture, the final baking or decorating procedure…they all contribute to the finished product. I love the satisfaction of taking raw, basic, ingredients and creating something beautiful, both to taste and to look at! There is a magical world of pastry that most people don’t know exists!”
What inspired Elizabeth to pursue this career? Family! Elizabeth grew up in a family with talented baking women and she was by amazed by their ability to make cookies from memory or make beautiful homemade cakes from scratch. She recalls that she first got really interested in the career at a young age while baking with her grandma and making mini pies from her leftover crust scraps. “Like many have said before me, food is one of the most powerful triggers of memory. Specific smells and tastes often remind us of the most special times that bring family and friends together. I feel that baking is a timeless art that will only continue to bring people together. I wanted to be the next generation of bringing people together, just with an elevated artistic twist.”
The biggest decision Elizabeth had to make was where her schooling adventure was to begin. She explains, “Nothing in life comes without a few challenges. I think the only real challenge I would say I faced would be my doubt in myself, or my confidence in the ability to make a career from baking cookies. After high school I took two years to travel and decide what I really wanted to do. When some people would ask what I had decided to go to school to study, and I would reply baking, I wasn’t always greeted with complete enthusiasm or confidence that I would succeed. But I decided to prove these people wrong!”
Elizabeth’s career advice? “I think the only thing there is to be said to anyone figuring out what to do, career-wise, is to do what makes you truly happy! My mom has always been a strong advocate of the ‘do what you love and you will never work a day in your life’ idea. I think that when I sat down and thought about what I loved to do most in my spare time, baking was the answer time and time again. Do what makes you happy, because with happiness comes passion, and with passion you will succeed.”
Check out Elizabeth’s Pastries Page on Facebook at: