Bakers Journal

Features Profiles
Two halves make a whole


May 29, 2009
By Brian Hartz


Topics

Born in Ethiopia to Armenian parents and now firmly established in Montreal, the husband-and-wife team of Rita and Levon Djerrahian have starkly contrasting skill sets yet are perfectly matched as producers of some of the highest-quality cakes in Canada.

Born in Ethiopia to Armenian parents and now firmly established in Montreal, the husband-and-wife team of Rita and Levon Djerrahian have starkly contrasting skill sets yet are perfectly matched as producers of some of the highest-quality cakes in Canada.

Rita&levon
Rita and Levon Djerrahian at Rita’s La Gâterie workshop in Pointe-Claire, Que.


Together they run La Gâterie in Pointe-Claire, Que., where they turn out stunning pieces for weddings, graduations and other special occasions.

Readers might recall seeing Rita featured in our March 2008 issue. Since then, she has gone on to win the grand prize in pastry decoration at the 2008 Salon of Culinary Arts competition last November in New York City. As the winner of the competition, sponsored by the Société Culinaire Philanthropique, she received $1,500 and a medal of honour from the French government, which has been recognizing the Salon’s promotion of French cuisine in the U.S. since 1912.

“I’m just a decorator, but I love what I do,” Rita says. “I’m just so happy that I can achieve what I am here for.

“It’s a passion,” she continues, gesturing around the austere interior of her studio. “If I wasn’t passionate, this place would be a prison; there are no windows, so I can’t even tell if it’s snowing, raining or sunny.”

iphone  
iphone  
Learjet  
From Top: La Gâterie’s iPhone cake, Rita’s grand-prize medal from the 2008 Salon of Culinary Arts cake competition in New York, and the Learjet cake.


 

Levon, an engineer by training but graphic designer by trade, relishes the challenge of forging the elaborate structures upon which Rita works her decorating artistry, resulting in some of the most stunning novelty cakes to grace the pages of this or any other magazine.

He’s also an amateur pilot and dreams of someday owning his own airplane. Thus, it was no surprise to hear that one his favourite recent projects was a Learjet cake designed for a client who was either very wealthy or very ambitious.

Over a cup of thick and delicious Armenian coffee, Levon showed us the Learjet cake photo during our early April excursion to Montreal for the SIAL food show. As he scrolled through the photos on his iPhone, he highlighted other recent triumphs, including an iPhone cake that was the spitting image of the device he held in his hand – but edible, of course.

Think what you will about the cultural implications of people eating cakes made in the likeness of Learjets and iPhones – a return to the “greed is good” days of the 1980s, perhaps? A Dickensian spirit of going from rags to riches and overcoming the recession? Maybe, maybe not – but what I took away from these creations was admiration for the skill of these two different but complementary artists.

“Specialty cakes are very popular right now,” says Rita, “and we’re doing more of them than wedding cakes. It’s a lot of work and a lot of dedication to detail, because each one is so different, but we do it because we love it.”

The couple agree hobbies and pop culture continue to be common themes for specialty cakes. Cars, trains, golf clubs, golf courses and, of course, airplanes are popular not only with customers, but also Levon, who relishes the challenge of giving foundation and form to such complex designs.

“I want to make the cakes out of Kevlar, but I don’t think that would go over very well,” he says with a chuckle.

Levon could be forgiven for wanting to take a shortcut or two with the cakes – he’s busy handling Canadian distribution for Satin Ice, the popular rolled fondant cake icing made by U.S.-based Satin Fine Foods Inc., in addition to designing menus for restaurants in New York and Philadelphia. He also handles the day-to-day business of La Gâterie, which is the way Rita likes it.

“When the business arrives, I just say, ‘You take care of it and leave me alone; I just want to decorate’,” she says with a brilliant smile.

Whether it’s “the business” of doing business, creating beautiful cakes, or just telling the story of their success, these two halves of La Gâterie combine to make a fantastic whole.

Contact La Gâterie at 514-695-1444 or fondant@satinice.ca