Sometimes a life experience can change your path forever.
She is a Historian turned Pastry Chef. Read the story of how Riley found her freedom in the crown.
Pastry Chef + Historian + Blogger
The Lavender Crown | Ottawa ON
Tell us the story behind the Lavender Crown.
I have always loved baking. I have been fortunate enough to fall in love with two very different careers. Baking and history are my two great loves. I spent a few years travelling and seeing amazing countries and trying amazing food and because of it I amassed this great collection of memories and recipes I couldn’t wait to try.
The Lavender Crown became a way to express the things I was interested in. The baking I was doing in the week, the city that I visited and couldn’t get enough of.
The best part about the crown being my own, is that I get to write about whatever I want. If there is a book I found really intriguing, I can write about it.
It’s an amazing kind of freedom.
I love to try out new recipes and experiment with flavours. Without trial and error, we never come up with new ideas. The thing is that I can find something delicious, but if I am the only one trying the food, it’s a pretty biased opinion. My favourite place to look for new ideas, is in blogs around the internet. Having my own, feels like I belong to that community, if only a little bit.
You have Italian blood in you – so food was a big part of your upbringing. Do you think this had an impact on your career path?
Absolutely. My Italian heritage affects everything I do, but especially my two careers. I study Medieval Studies & Italian Language and Culture in University and then Pastry. Everything I do in these fields is tied to my heritage, be it the language or the flavours.
Italians have really mastered the art of pastry. The simplicity of Italian sweets, breads and desserts is unique among the world cultures. Regional differences and quality ingredients make everything so unique.
Art comes in so many forms. You definitely excel at food art and photography. Where does your artistic inspiration come from?
I wish I could say it came naturally, but the truth is it took a lot of time to learn the art of photography. It started off more or less is an accident. I got a camera, a good one, to take with me on my first trip to Italy. It was in taking photos of the landmarks, structures, and landscapes that I really saw the affect that lighting and spacing could have on a photo.
It then became a game of trial and error, finding what worked best for my style. Food became a natural progression, mostly because, at first, it was always ready and on hand.
The thing about inspiration is that it can come from anywhere. A lot of people operate under the impression that in order to look for baking ideas they need to look at other baked goods. Do not get me wrong, this is a great starting point, but the beauty of art is that you can find inspiration in anything.
“As I started to travel the world I realized it was the sweeter things that held me captivated; the confections, pastries, chocolates and treats.”
What is it about the sweeter things in life that captivates you?
A lot of times, the food can tell you more about a country than a day of travelling ever could.
Food is as unique to a country as its flag, and dessert is the greatest meal. Maybe it is the fruit that only that country grows, or their style of bread.
Food is that one thing that brings people together and the traditions of each country affects their food, always for the better.
There is a reason why we save the best for last. I rush through every other course to get to the good stuff. I have yet to try a country’s dessert and find it lacking. Sometime it’s the flavour of the fruit, or the unique pastry, but it is always a joy. Take Canada for instance, our national dessert is the beaver tail, a deep fried pastry rolled in cinnamon sugar. The only thing that could make it more uniquely Canadian is maple.
What are your favorite flavor combinations?
Anything with coffee in it. Coffee and chocolate is an obvious choice, and rightly so, but there are so many other flavours that can be combined with coffee to make magic. Maybe it’s the caffeine addiction talking, but I dare you to disagree.
What is your favorite comfort food?
One hundred percent pizza. One hundred percent of the time.
I don’t like sharing fries. Do you have any quirks about food?
People taking food off my plate. I don’t mind sharing, in fact I love to, but once the food hits my plate, it is mine. Hands off.
Since we are a lifestyle blog, would you mind answering a few personal questions?
Do you have a daily beauty routine?
I wish I could say I have this down, but my daily routine is still very much a work in progress. As of right now I use a cleanser, toner and a moisturizer, something with a bit of SPF during the day and a night cream in the evening. Swap in a serum at night, and there you have it.
How would you describe your personal style?
Comfort and practicality. I’ve long since left behind the strappy heels and blouses. My go to look consists of jeans, sturdy boots and a solid sweater or graphic tee. Pair that with a good coat and you have my daily uniform. This is the look that has carried me through long days in the kitchen, travelling across Europe, and even hiking in Scotland.
What is your favorite way to pamper yourself?
Easily getting my nails done. There is something about having a perfect manicure which makes me feel just a little more put together. Plus, when food colours or paints dye my nails, it helps to hide it.
Finally pick three words that describe you best.
Creative, well-read, inquisitive.