I’ve put off writing this post not because I don’t have a topic but because I didn’t really know what to say about it.

My head baker Andrea is leaving at the end of February. She told me she was ready for a change just after Christmas and although I felt this decision was coming, actually hearing this news was, and is, a shock.

In the summer of 2010 when I had not even a location for the store, I knew I needed to find a head baker. George Brown College kindly agreed to send out an email to its pastry arts alumni – all they needed from me was a job description. Ok, I thought, I can make something up – how about…bake lots of cupcakes? I went on the internet and found sample job descriptions and cut-and-pasted until I had something that sounded right but I really had no idea about commercial baking or commercial kitchens.

Then I waited…but not for long. The first email I received was from Andrea Ascione who had recently left her job as head baker at a busy high-end food emporium. We hit it off immediately although a year after we opened, Andrea admitted that she thought we would be in business 3-6 months and then she would be looking for a new job.

Also in 2010, Andrew and I spent hours forecasting sales for the not-yet-opened business – again, I had no idea what I was doing but we landed on sales of approximately 10 dozen on a good day for the first year.  New Head Baker Andrea geared up accordingly and planned our kitchen to have two little ovens holding 4 pans each and hired 2 junior bakers, one of whom could also do customer service.

Fast forward to 2015: thousands  of cupcakes later, baked by teams of bakers in three stores with car-sized ovens, I can say that Andrea has never remotely done the job I hired her for  – instead she immediately became the head baker I actually needed.  No matter what we have taken on over the last 5 years – and there have been some incredible orders, photo shoots, Valentine’s Days, menu changes and store openings – Andrea rose to the occasion.

One thing that Andrea and I did not talk a lot about before she came aboard was her leadership ability, as in, hiring, training, managing, scheduling and letting people go…and  yet this has been a big part of her job. It says so much about Andrea’s leadership ability that she is leaving PGB in the hands of a successor whom she personally hired and trained, a feat that not many departing leaders have achieved. Anne Silegren was one of the junior bakers that Anne hired before we opened, and for the last 5 years has been Andrea’s mentee. I know that Anne is going to do a fantastic job as our new Head Baker. I also know the place will not be the same without Andrea.


About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean is the president of Toronto's best cupcake and cake bakery - Prairie Girl Bakery. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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