The Love and Art of Baking: Elizabeth’s Story

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:

https://www.facebook.com/Elizabeths-Pastries-1479999805659906

Putting It All Together: Michelle’s Public Relations Story

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

Michelle Praymayer is the Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant at Home Hardware Stores Limited for the head office in St. Jacobs, Ontario. With previous employment in the radio and television industries, and as a former student of both Conestoga and Fanshawe College, Michelle has used her promotional and media experiences to excel as a member of the Home Hardware team.

Michelle says that she loves “the variety” that her job brings: “Every day is unique and I get to be a part of so many neat things.” Along with variety, Michelle loves the atmosphere surrounding her workplace: “It’s a family business. It’s a small town environment and most people know each other and are very friendly.... It adds to the charm.”

 On a typical day,  Michelle can be found phoning store owners and customers, picking products to donate to fundraisers, answering emails, creating and editing press releases or newsletter articles, as well as creating product lists. On the not-so typical days, Michelle’s variety of tasks increases! For example, earlier this year, she organized the entertainment for Home Hardware Canada's national Dealer Market event, which included a circus act called, “The Aerial Angels” and she was chosen to coordinate the Lieutenant Governor’s visit to the Home Hardware distribution centre as well. In addition, Michelle has suited up as the mascot, “Handy the Helpful Hound” for Thanksgiving and Christmas parades. Through her work, she was also able to attend the 2014 International Plowing Match which took place in Alliston, ON. Michelle has even worked alongside the experts seen in the Home Hardware commercials, Mark Cullen and Anna Olson!

 Initially, Michelle wasn’t expecting to get the job: “My mom worked there first and brought home the posting. I applied in March... and didn’t get a call until end of May. They hired me in that interview.” Michelle began working at Home Hardware in June 2014 and credits her previous experiences, including volunteer work, for helping her acquire this position. “Say yes to every opportunity” says Praymayer. “Volunteer in the field or a related field early to gain the competitive edge and make you more appealing to the employer.”

 Michelle studied at Conestoga College in her hometown of Kitchener for a career in Broadcasting; This led to appearances on television and radio and many other opportunities. After one year, she changed directions and continued her education at Fanshawe College in London with the Music Industry Arts program. After graduating, Michelle took some time off and returned to Conestoga to become an Event Planner. Michelle says that she is still figuring out what to do with her life. However, she has been able to successfully apply aspects from all of her programs as a Public Relations and Promotional Events Assistant for Home Hardware:

 “It’s really neat to see things from my past coming up” Praymayer explains. Michelle worked on entertainment contracts while in school, which is something she has to do at work when booking the entertainment for various events. “I created training videos here [and] I used previous knowledge from my writing skills [I] developed [as a writer for] SportsXpress magazines”. Michelle also had previous work experience in the food industry which has helped her to create menus for other special events. Although Michelle Praymayer may be unclear on what her future holds, it is certain that she will continue to excel at what she does, thanks to her hard work and determination, in whatever field she chooses.