Guest blogger – Ani Kalemkerian

Please welcome Ani Kalemkerian to our blog. She’s a friend of our very own eden baylee and, fortunately for me, she lives in Vancouver and bakes all these amazing things. Just looking at the photos has me craving cheese souffles!

Say hello to Ani and check out her links at the bottom of the post. She’s a creative, talented and very interesting human being, plus she bakes like a maestro.

Who are you? I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1970. My parents and I immigrated to Montreal in 1975 to escape the dictatorship. My parents chose Montreal because my relatives already moved there from Egypt where my mom’s from.

We moved into a tiny one bedroom apartment until we were able to afford to buy land and build a house in a boring suburb. We were the only non senior household on our street. 17 years later, I graduated from high school and got into a creative arts program at a college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life but I knew it was going to be creative. After taking a film class, I decided that making films was what I wanted to do. I enrolled in the film production production program in university. I started working on a documentary after I graduated as well start a jewelry line that I sold in stores in Montreal, Toronto and NYC.

In 1996, I made the decision to move to Vancouver even though I’ve never been there before and only knew one person. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I was ready for a new experience. I was also planning on working in the film industry which is really big in Vancouver. After working on several film sets, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I completed my documentary on chat lines 10 years later and it did well in various film festivals in Europe and North America. Coincidentally, I bumped into and acquaintance who told me about a new job our mutual friend had. It was at a chat line. I thought about working there and was hired shortly after. I began selling memberships for phone chat lines and I stayed at this job for 5 years. The novelty wore off after a while and wanted to try something different. I worked in the fraud department at eBay but was laid off 3 years later.

I was unemployed for the first time in 15 years. It was the best time of my life. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking. I felt that the kitchen is where I belonged. It was fun, creative and almost everyone loves dessert. I couldn’t sit down at a desk, in an office surrounded by grey walls and computers anymore. I started a blog a few months later. I considered the blog to be my baking school. It was a place where I showed my results, failures and wrote about them. I had no intention of going to baking school where I would be the oldest person in class. I changed my mind after I met a pastry chef who encouraged me to go to school. I got into the baking program at a community college and spent the next 10 months baking full time in a lab with 12 other students old enough to be my kids.

A few weeks after graduation, I started baking at a small patisserie where i’m currently still working.

What is your day like? I wake up at 6:30 am, take 2 buses to work, and bake for 8-9 hours. I make cinnamon buns, cakes, pies, trifle, tiramisu, crème brûlée, cheesecakes, pudding cakes, and bread pudding. I go home have dinner, watch a movie, try to read but end up wasting a lot of time online.

On a good working day? A good working day is when I don’t screw up on a recipe and I’m able to finish everything that I need to do. Even after making the same cheesecake many times, and you know the recipe by heart, you can completely forget to do something which might destroy the whole thing and you have to throw it out.

On a bad working day? I have too much on my mind. I’m stressed out because I have so many things to bake that I won’t be able to finish in 8 hours and I make a mistake on something.

How do you cope with the bad ones? I forget what happened and move on.

What do you do on your day off? I wake up when I feel like it. Make eggs benedict and coffee. Read my newspapers online, check my emails, go on craigslist and Facebook. Go to the gym and work out on the elliptical for 30 minutes while I read the New Yorker. I might bake something, photograph and blog about it and then go have another coffee at my favorite cafe where I can read the NY Times and some Canadian newspapers. I also love people watching. If it’s a Thursday, I’ll volunteer at the movie theatre concession. They screen foreign and independent films. Volunteering allows me to get a pass to see free movies at a couple of movie theatres. If I’m not volunteering I’ll probably be watching a movie. I watch a film almost every night, either at home or in a theatre.

What turns you on creatively? Being inspired by a good film. This happened recently after seeing the documentary A matter of Taste, Serving Up Paul Liebrandt. Liebrandt’s a NYC based chef who creates these beautiful looking deconstructed modern dishes. I’m sure they taste amazing too. I also get inspired by high fashion. I love watching fashion shows when it involves someone like Alexander McQueen, Gucci, or Anna Sui. I also follow a lot of visual art and like going to art galleries. Some of my favorite artists are Francis Bacon, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Lucian Freud, Basquiat and Georges Braque. Seeing unusual color combinations and interesting compositions and textures can give me an idea for a nice platted dessert that I’ve never thought of before.

what do you most admire in your field and why? People who can survive in it for a long time and share their knowledge with others. It’s very stressful and physically gruelling to work in a kitchen which is why you see so many chefs, cooks and bakers start writing blogs hoping to eventually get a book deal or a TV show.

Tell us a little about your working process? If I’m going to create a plated dessert, I like to come up with the flavor combinations first. Then I think about what I’d like to use in the recipe that will go well with the flavors that I’ve chosen. Then the most fun part is coming up with an illustration of how it’s going to look together. I make several drawings then pick the best one.

What is one thing you want to do before you die? I want to open my own dessert only restaurant.

What are your favorite books? Animal Farm by George Orwell and anything by Jonathan Ames.

Who are your favorite musicians? I’m going to say Prince because I’m seeing him next month and I’m very excited about it. Mostly, I love his older music. I grew up listening to British post punk and I still listen to it now. I love Siouxsie Sioux, Robert Smith of The Cure, The Cult, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Newer bands that I love are The National, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Outrageous Cherry and Ariel Pink. I love 60s and 70’s music too. The stones, Nico, Syd Barrett, Bowie, Betty Davis, Love, Gainsbourg, France Gall, and Francoise Hardy.

What are your favorite movies? Je t’aime moi non plus, Loves of a blond, edge of seventeen, David Holzman’s diary, Warrendale, Masculin Feminin, I was on mars, The Up series, The king of comedy, Without you i’m nothing, La chamade, The elephant man, Saturday night Sunday morning, High fidelity, Mask, Grey gardens, A taste of honey, and Playtime.

Ani

Links:

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9 responses to “Guest blogger – Ani Kalemkerian

  1. Ani! So great to see you here, and I’m thrilled to find out more about you. Love your picture, and get all the great posts from your blog site. I have several of your recipes I really want to try. Unfortunately, I’m a LOUSY baker, but I’ll do my best.

    Excellent to learn more about your baking process and will definitely be trying that cheese souffle. Nothing like baking the most challenging item first!

    eden
    xox

    • If I can do it, you can do it. Souffles are one of the easiest things to make. The only thing that bugs me about them is that deflate after a few minutes. You have to eat them right away. They even started to deflate in the picture.

  2. Thanks for blogging Ani! And wow do those photos make my mouth water! 😀

    Katy

  3. Ani, it’s great to have you with us today. I loved reading about your process and your creations look amazing! I’ll be hunting your pastry shop down when I visit Kate for sure.

    Thanks so much for joining us.

  4. Welcome aboard, Ani. I love to cook, but baking doesn’t love me. My breads make wonderful construction materials (read: bricks.) 🙂 Your creations, however, look wonderful! If I moved to Vancouver, I’d be a fat man for sure!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing with us. The pastry creations look as delicious as they must taste. I think I gained weight just looking at them.

    Wally

  6. Great post and such drool-worthy pictures! Even though I’m still completely stuffed from Thanksgiving yesterday, I now want pastry.

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