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 opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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