Baking career a lifelong dream for Edmonton business owner
For Jennifer Stang (Culinary Arts ’08), being in the kitchen baking and cooking with her grandmother is a memorable part of growing up.
At age 12, she got her first book on cake decorating and would spend hours flipping through the pages, marvelling at the creations. But even after all those hours in the kitchen baking and reading about how to make buttercream, she never considered that pastry could be a full-time career. Baking felt like something she could do as a hobby while pursuing a more traditional profession, like being a doctor.
So Stang instead embarked on getting a medical degree. It was in a third-year cell biology class when she realized that pastry and baking were the only things she cared about and that a change was in order.
Stang, now executive pastry chef and owner of La Boule Patisserie and Bakery, joins the Career Essentials podcast to share how her path ultimately led to Culinary Arts at NAIT and how she got a thriving business off the ground. She also provides insight on how the rest of us can recognize the signs when we’re off course – and how to find the right path.
Listen to Episode 3
Listen to the full episode below or read an excerpt.
How did you know when you needed to make a career shift? Did it feel like a risk?
It definitely felt like a risk. A part of it too was, “How do I sell this to my family and friends?” in going from a very respectable and secure career path [in medicine] and switch to something I felt was less secure?
But I distinctly remember sitting in my cellular biology class and learning about the signal transduction pathway and thinking, “I really don’t care.” I should be excited about this as I am about pastry baking. My email inbox, my online shopping carts were all filled with pastry books. I spent my spare time looking at pastry and baking books. I wanted to get up every day and pipe buttercream. That was a sign. I needed to try.
Was owning your own business always part of the plan?
It’s so funny because I remember distinctly thinking that you have to be a special breed of crazy to open your own business. That was not something I ever wanted to do. I wanted to work for somebody else. I had very distinct ideas about what I wanted to do and owning my own business was absolutely not one of them.
But it was another career change in a way. I had worked at all these pastry kitchens and bakeries and exhausted all my options in Edmonton. I didn't really have many options left other than to leave the industry, leave the city or start my own business. In fact, I did leave the industry for six months before starting La Boule and I missed it every single day.
What would you tell people that they need to do before making a big change?
For me, opening La Boule wasn’t a big leap from what I was doing previously. It took courage to switch industries originally. I felt like I owed it to myself to at least try. But after that there were a lot more small steps. It’s a gradual process. I think you need to allow yourself time to acclimate to the process and it’s OK to feel uncomfortable. But, it’s a very personal choice and everyone’s situation is different. You have to be respectful of yourself and what your comfort levels are.
Are you still part of the kitchen or are you more focused on running the business now?
Oh, no. I’m very actively a part of the kitchen. This is why I opened it! I didn’t want to just have a business. I needed a job so I created the job for myself!
Any final thoughts for people who are trying to decide to change careers?
If you’re contemplating it in any way, you don’t need to drop everything that you’re doing and immediately take up something new. But at least look into it to give yourself that peace of mind. And maybe it will grow over time. Read a book or take a class, maybe that’ll lead you to a boot camp or doing an internship and working in the industry for a couple of weeks.
I think if there’s a niggling feeling that won’t go away, don’t ignore it. And be kind to yourself. You never know how it will turn out.