Bakers Journal

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North Stars Shining

March 31, 2010  By Brian Hartz

When Hollywood comes calling, you don’t say no – even if the offer comes at the last minute.

Canadian actress Julia Voth, left, with High Tea Bakery co-owner Belinda Bigold at the Golden Globe Awards Oh Canada gift lounge in Hollywood.

When Hollywood comes calling, you don’t say no – even if the offer comes at the last minute.

The rewards are too great to pass up, says Belinda Bigold, co-owner of High Tea Bakery in Winnipeg. Her bakery’s specialty, the Imperial Cookie, was chosen for the Oh Canada Premium Gift Lounge at the 67th annual Golden Globe Awards Jan. 15-17 in Hollywood.


It seems to have been a blockbuster move as marquee Canadian names such as Estella Warren (Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake), Ashley Greene (the Twilight films) and the father-son directing duo Ivan (Ghostbusters, Meatballs, Stripes) and Jason (Up in the Air) Reitman all stopped by to pick up gift packs and nibble on the cookies.

“I was on vacation until Jan. 7,” says Belinda, who owns High Tea Bakery along with her mother, Carol Bigold. “I had to come back and organize all the packing and shipping for the Golden Globes in just under a week.”

The Bigolds were invited to submit their cookies by Heather Stewart of Lilyfield Cakes, also based in Winnipeg.

“After doing some similar things in past years, I decided to organize one that was all Canadian,” Stewart told Bakers Journal. “So I asked them to come along and I’m very glad that I did.”

Stewart specializes in little round cakes packaged in a keepsake hatbox. Her products have been featured at high-profile events ranging from the 2008 Academy Awards to the inauguration of U.S. president Barack Obama.

“The Oh Canada gift lounge was her brainchild,” says Belinda. “She’s well-versed in these kinds of events.

“We bake her cakes for her, and she was saying how surprised she is that more Canadian businesses are not targeting these high-profile events in the U.S. So she said, ‘Why don’t we have our own gift lounge at the Golden Globes?’ She went to the Manitoba government and proposed it – and they agreed to co-sponsor it.”

However, the Bigolds found out about the opportunity only at the last minute, when Stewart came in to pick up her order for the gift lounge.

“She said, ‘Do you want to come?’

We said, ‘OK!’ Who’s going to turn that down?”

High Tea Bakery co-owner Carol Bigold with Canadian film directing legend Ivan Reitman. 

But there was a catch: High Tea Bakery had to be approved for export to the U.S. Fortunately, they do a small amount of business in the States – not a lot, Belinda says, but enough to be familiar with the necessary rules and regulations. Now, thanks to the exposure their products received at the Golden Globes, the Bigolds expect to be much more active south of the border.

“Having never done this kind of event, we said, ‘OK, what’s the worst that could happen? We get a lot of free local press, some key media contacts, and a visit to Hollywood,’” Belinda says. “So we said, ‘Sure!’”

Because Stewart was going to have her cakes at the gift lounge, and Winnipeg’s Chocolatier Constance Popp was bringing boxes of premium chocolates, the Bigolds decided to make their Imperial Cookie the focus of their gift bag.

“New York has the black-and-white cookie, but we wanted to spotlight the Imperial Cookie because it’s a Winnipeg thing,” she says. “We wanted to do something different than just sending down a bunch of cookies in a box. Our Imperial is an almond shortcake cookie – there are a million different varieties, but ours are made from scratch and with all pure ingredients. That’s how we got the reputation in Winnipeg.

“We also wanted to play up the monarchy, the Old World, with the crown and the European styling. It’s a reminder of the differences between the U.S. and Canada.”

Belinda designed the gift bags and boxes from top to bottom while Carol organized the packaging materials. Before they knew it, they were off to the Intercontinental Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., and rubbing elbows with silver-screen legends.

“There was a reception the first night at the Canadian consulate general’s house [in Beverly Hills] and a lot of Canadian stars came down there,” Belinda says. “At the hotel, we were standing around waiting for our car and in walk Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, and then Robert Duvall – and we’re giggling like schoolchildren.”

However, the trip was more work than play – and it certainly wasn’t cheap. Companies had to pay for their own airfare and accommodations on top of the $3,000 fee for having a table at the gift lounge, which was set up at the luxurious Peninsula Hotel. For the Bigolds, it was worth every penny.

“We’ve been getting tons of feedback already,” Belinda says. “We knew we weren’t going down there simply to hawk our cookies, but to talk to editors, consultants and other arbiters of style. We had some great chats with people and have been contacted by some wealthy individuals who have asked about ordering our gift packs for special events they’re involved with.

“You can’t really plan for this [kind of exposure],” she adds. “One of the things we were hoping for was a little more government and corporate work and that has been coming through because of this. We’re getting a lot of calls we normally wouldn’t have gotten.”

For Stewart, the Oh Canada gift lounge served to reinforce and expand her brand identity in the United States.

“Most of my business is in the U.S.,” she says. “There are so many more people there. It’s really exciting to be able to serve that population as well as your own. It makes a big difference to be able to reach that market.”

She’s also of the belief that a rising tide lifts all ships.

“I just think we’ve got so much talent here (in Canada) and it would be great to [help] other Canadians show their stuff,” Stewart told the Winnipeg Free Press. “If somebody is doing something special, we would love to hear from them. We’re looking for the best of what we have, and sometimes there are these gems out there that we haven’t heard about yet.”

Stewart says she will “probably” put together another Oh Canada gift lounge at next year’s Golden Globes.

“I’m not 100 per cent positive, but if we do, we’re hoping to have a separate room just for food. I would love to hear from anyone who has a product to showcase, because I believe we’ve just barely scratched the surface of what Canada has to offer.”

Count High Tea Bakery among the businesses that will eagerly sign up for a return trip to Tinseltown.

“If they put it on next year I would definitely go,” Belinda says. “I would go again in a second. The media alone is worth it.

“However, I would be better prepared and get more out of it. Having just designed the packaging, we were stickering things up in the hotel room on the morning of the event!”

High Tea Bakery is located at 2103 Portage Ave., Winnipeg, Man., and on the web at Heather Stewart can be reached at 1-866-832-0884 or

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