One of our goals at Project Weekend is to contribute to this amazing community of makers. One of the ways we'll do that is by highlighting makers and artists, and sharing their stories to inspire others to make time for creativity. We're very excited to announce a new series called Meet the Makers.
Our inaugural post kicks off with Alessandra Percival, head baker at Flourist's 2,800 sqft brick and mortar cafe at 3433 Commercial St in Vancouver. Flourist is Canada's only source for 100% traceable grains, beans, and freshly milled flour. Their warm and welcoming cafe offers incredible baked goods, an all-day menu, and commissary market.
Here, Alessandra shares what it's like to be a maker for a living, her personal inspirations, and how she deals with mistakes in her day-to-day job and when crafting at home...
What is a typical day like as a head baker?
A typical day is spent doing a little bit of everything: managing the team in the back of house, making bread, doing service, food costing, and lots of prep. It’s busy, but I love it!
"I’ve always loved working with my hands and it’s so satisfying to create something that nourishes people."
Why did you choose baking as your career?
I grew up baking with my mom and always enjoyed it. It was really therapeutic for me. I tried the university route and didn’t like it, so I decided to go to school for baking and pastry. Since then I’ve been baking full time. I’ve always loved working with my hands and it’s so satisfying to create something that nourishes people.
How do you spend your downtime?
Usually I knit a lot, because I can focus on it and find it very relaxing. I also like to read, go out for dinner, and go for walks.
What project are you working on right now?
Right now we’re doing some menu development at Flourist so I’ve been testing some new recipes and sourcing ingredients that speak to our values of sustainability and traceability. Lots of testing and lots of eating! I’m also working on Christmas gifts for my family. We’re trying to only give gifts that are handmade, locally sourced, and/or second-hand so it’s been fun to think of gifts to make for everyone.
"I still have sweaters that my grandmother knit for me as a baby, and I hope that people cherish what I make the same way I cherish those items."
How do you deal with screw-ups or mistakes?
Even though I can be a bit stubborn and a perfectionist, I think I deal with screw ups or mistakes fairly well. Sourdough baking is one of those things that is always adapting and changing depending on the day, so if you’re not patient and limber you can easily make mistakes. Being in this constant state of flow has kept me from taking myself too seriously. The weather, the temperature of your water, the age of your starter—all of these things can cause potential screw ups so you need to think on your feet and be flexible. The nice thing is that even a flat loaf that might look like a ‘mistake’ is still tasty!
With knitting I’ve definitely shed some tears. I’ll usually unravel my work and fix it. I read somewhere that there’s always one mistake in every knitting project but I can’t seem to accept that!
If I’m not working off of a pattern I have a hard time knowing when a project is “done”. I made a blanket as a wedding gift and it ended up being a king sized blanket because I was so concerned about making sure that both my sister and brother-in-law could snuggle under it. I’m sure it could have been “done” a lot sooner if I hadn’t been so concerned about making it too small.
"I love creating food that makes people feel nostalgic."
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Most of my inspiration comes from things my grandmothers or mother made for us when I was growing up. The food I make today is inspired by their recipes. I love creating food that makes people feel nostalgic. Even though it wasn’t something that I personally ate growing up, my favourite thing on the Flourist menu is the baked beans on toast. I ate it every day the first month we opened and that’s not an exaggeration.
Are there any activities that give you clarity and purpose?
Knitting and hand spinning my own wool. I find those hobbies really meditative. I’ll start doing it and totally lose track of time. I’ll look at my phone and hours will have passed without me realizing. I love creating something with my hands and hoping that I’m creating an heirloom. I still have sweaters and stuffed animals that my grandmother knit for me as a baby and I hope that people cherish what I make the same way I cherish those items.
What's the best creative or artistic advice you've ever gotten?
“Keep it simple, stupid”. Sometimes we have a tendency to mess with things when it’s not really required.
We hope you find this series as interesting as we do. If you're looking for your next project, head on over to our curated crafting kits to get started! And if you know a maker we should feature next month, email us at email@example.com