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Cool Jobs Q&A: Cake Artist

Maclean’s Cool Jobs: Alexandria Pellegrino, a cake artist at Toronto’s Cake Opera Co., describes why confidence is key in cake-making


 

ALEXANDRIA PELLEGRINO, 33

  • Cake Artist, Cake Opera Co., Toronto
  • Education and training: Four-year bachelor’s degree in drawing and painting from OCAD University; Basic and intermediate diplomas in patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu
  • Average yearly income: $80,000
  • Years on the job: 7

How did you get into this field?

When I was at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), I majored in drawing and painting and I started working with bread and meringues and sugar to create these really wild installations. After OCAD, I went to Italy and I really got into cooking and hosting parties.

I came back to Canada and went to the Cordon Bleu [in Ottawa]. I was a two-time gold medallist on Food Network Challenge. I was the first Canadian and the youngest person to win—so that really helped to launch my career.

Describe a typical day on the job.

Every day really is different. Today I’m just sitting around at my computer, talking to other industry people and doing research. I’m working on a creative where I have to create a dark, “morose,” Asian-inspired cake, so I’m going through different chinoiserie patterns on Pinterest. I’ll probably bake later today. I have a client coming in in a few hours. I’m pretty much responsible for everything. An hour ago, I was answering some students’ questions.

What’s your favourite part?

My favourite part is making the cakes, 100 per cent: designing and actually executing them, then posting them on social media and seeing other people loving them.

What’s your most memorable moment?

Last summer, I created this absolutely astonishing cake. It left me in awe. I couldn’t believe I’d made it. It was six feet tall, Marie Antoinette-style; it took me two months. I went to the house a little while later and it was under this glass enclosure in this ballroom. The fact that they invested in my work and wanted to keep it and clearly liked it so much just meant so much to me. I also remember getting to make Nicole Richie’s wedding cake (they flew me down to Beverly Hills) and delivering it to Lionel Richie’s house back in 2010. That was really cool.

What advice do you have for aspiring cake designers?

Be confident. Do anything you want. That’s what I did.

I did whatever the hell I wanted. Nobody was using 24-carat gold. I was the first person to do a lot of things in the industry. Anything goes, so long as it’s safe. Try it and use it. Not everyone loves my cakes, but I don’t need everyone to love my cakes. Also, don’t spend crazy amounts of money when you’re first starting out. Pick up a toothpick.

What are the pros and cons?

A big pro is being self-employed, I really like working alone. I really am an artist, and I’ve been an artist since I was born. This is my path in life. It’s difficult. However much work you put in is how much you’re getting out. I don’t have a paycheque coming to me every two weeks. If I get sick, I can’t work, especially since I’m working with food.


 
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