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Lindork’s Lists: Q&A with Larry Harris
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on May 2, 2021
The third person I’m profiling in my new paid newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Larry Harris, Edmonton Baker and Contestant on The Great Canadian Baking Show Season 4 (Star Baker, Bread Week)
Getting to know baker Larry Harris:
Larry Harris is a 54-year-old Edmonton-based Baker (owner of micro-bakery Bonne Vie), and a recent contestant (finalist!) of The Great Canadian Baking Show Season 4. He was also awarded Star Baker title during Bread Week, if you needed more evidence of his mastery and love of baking bread.
I have been following Larry on social media for years and it’s been so incredible to see him go from sharing his delicious, home-cooked and home-baked meals online, to turning that love of baking into a business, and then putting himself on a national stage by baking through the popular CBC reality show.
Larry loves taking simple ingredients and turning them into something delicious to share. He’s so passionate about baking, it’s evident and so exciting to watch. His passion has also driven him to take a lot of risks, something he thinks everyone who has a passion should try to do, whether it’s a passion for baking or something else. He’s a real, go for your dream, kind of guy. And I love that.
“Taking risks may be uncomfortable, but you will regret not taking that first step. Surround yourself with your family and friends, so they can provide you with the support to make your dream happen!”
– Larry Harris
I also loved how Larry instilled a love of cooking and baking to his son. That was something he was really proud to share—my son made this today, I’m proud of this dish that my son did. When parents can pass or nurture that type of passion to their kids, I think that’s really special. I think often about nature vs. nurture and how there are many things I likely love or do without even thinking of today that was brought on whether intentionally or subtly by my parents.
Larry shares more about instilling that love of cooking into his son from a young age in this Q&A so keep reading!!
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Larry:
When did you start baking?
I started baking when I was child, but really took an interest in baking after my wife and I spent our honeymoon in France. I just loved all the fresh baguettes and pastries, something you could not really find in Edmonton in the early 1990s. So I started making them myself, and continued to grow as a baker since then.
When and why did you start Bonne Vie? Where do you want it to go?
We started Bonne Vie Bakery as a micro home bakery at the beginning of November 2020. We thought “let’s bake a dozen loaves of bread and see if there is an interest.” Well there was an interest! It quickly increased in December to around 30 loaves along with several dozen cookies and other baking each bake day. It has continued to increase and now six months later we will typically bake 60 loaves along with dozens of cookies and other baking each bake day.
When we started we were concerned with having bread leftover, now everything sells out in less than an hour once it is available on our website. We have tremendous support from the community that has been built around our sourdough and baking.
We really did not expect this level of support.
We are in the process of expanding our production to better meet our communities desire for sourdough bread. This will likely be met by developing a commercial bakery kitchen in our basement, which will allow us to bake more often, offer different products and to sell to other local businesses!
- What is your day job?
- Like many people in the last year, I was laid off in June 2020. My career up to now was helping organizations plan for the future in developing strategies and financial models. There has not been too many opportunities in that line of work, so being unemployed was an impetus for starting Bonne Vie Bakery.—something that I could do to keep busy while looking for full-time work. Now, it is looking like my day job is being an entrepreneur and making Bonne Vie Bakery a full-time passion
What was it like being on the Great Canadian Baking Show? Can you share memorable moments, surprising details behind-the-scenes? I know you also applied many times before you got through!
- It was amazing being on The Great Canadian Baking Show, Season 4!!! I had such a wonderful time being on the show and meeting the other bakers, who are now dear friends.
- There were two memorable moments. The first was being named Star Baker for Bread Week and being first in the technical the same episode!
Bread is my thing and being star baker for bread week was a goal I had.
- The second memorable moment was being at the finale and seeing Raufikat win, and then all of us giving her a massive group hug! I am so glad this happened and everyone was able to see what a supportive bunch of bakers we are!
- Another thing I want to share is that, all you see when you watch the show are us bakers, the hosts and the judges. What you don’t see are all the people behind the scenes that make it all happen. This is a pretty big production with dozens of people involved to bring our bakes to life! A huge part of this is the culinary team that makes sure we have everything we need from ingredients to pans, and everything in between at our workstations. Not only do they have us set up at the start, if we need anything during the bake, they are there to get it for us. At the end of the bake, they are there to clean up our workstations, and get them ready for the judging and next bake – some days our workstations looked like a tornado went through!
- Being on the show has been a dream and goal for a number of years. I originally watched the Great British Bake Off, and dreamed of being in the tent there one day. Then it was announced that there was going to be a Canadian version, and I knew that I had to be on it! So I applied for every season, and auditioned too!
I kept applying as I knew I could bake, I loved baking along with the show and did most of the technical challenges, and I wanted the opportunity to bake with other bakers. My family was supportive of me doing this, to keep going and achieve my dream!
What is the best thing you’ve ever baked? And do you have a go-to favourite?
- Questions that single out a single thing as the best are always such a challenge! When I look back, I think it has to be the cake I made for my audition that got me onto the Great Canadian Baking Show.
- The cake was covered in Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream with the top and bottom devil’s food cake, the middle a vanilla vertical cake with dark chocolate ganache. The oranges, flowers and leaves I made out of homemade fondant.
- As for a go to that I always bake, prior to starting the bakery, it was either chocolate chip cookies or brownies. These are nice comforting treats, and our family loves them!
What is the most challenging thing you’ve ever baked and why? What is something people may not realize about baking?
- For me, one of the most challenging things I have ever baked are Macarons. I have made them before and they have turned out great, but I have been having challenges with them getting it just right! I am so glad they were not a challenge on the Great Canadian Baking Show!
- The most challenging part of baking for me is detailed piping and decorating cakes. It is not something that I do frequently and creating those beautiful cakes is challenging!
People may not realize that bakers need a balance of science and art. Baking requires weighing ingredients and understanding what the different ingredients do to make the magic happen, at the same time you need an artistic side to present flavours and how a bake looks.
Can you share why you instilled a love of food in your son from a young age, why sharing that passion was important for you?
- Food is something that can bring us together as a family, culture and a society. As I mentioned, my love of baking really started on our honeymoon in France, and food has always been central to our family gatherings with everyone contributing.
- When our son came into our life we wanted him exposed to all sorts of food. As soon as he could stand he was “helping” in the kitchen, and soon this became real helped as he loved it! He was using real knives when he was three years old (under supervision of course) and helping wherever he could. Over time his skills kept improving, and we continue to enjoy cooking and baking together, and we also benefit with him cooking us fabulous meals!
- He is in high school now and is busy with that, but he is an integral part of Bonne Vie Bakery (I could not do it without my wife’s support and contributions either) helping out when he can and contributing ideas on what we should bake!
- My son loves food and this year he entered the High School Culinary competition and came in third for his appetizer entry – Chicken Potato Samosa with Spicy Mango Chutney. We are so proud of him!
What advice would you give home cooks or home bakers, who want to turn their passion or hobby into a career? What advice would you give people when it comes to doing what you love, taking risks, getting out of your comfort zone, trying something new?
- For home cooks and bakers who are passionate about what they do, they should look at doing a trial of some sort to see if there is a market for what they do. This could be testing on family and friends or doing what we did and starting a micro bakery and seeing where it goes. So I am naturally risk averse and can be anxious, so getting out of my comfort zone and taking risks is hard.
- Getting on the Great Canadian Baking Show and then starting a micro bakery, were definitely outside my comfort zone, but I went ahead with the support and encouragement of my family. So my advice to other people is to do it! It may be uncomfortable, but you will regret not taking that first step. Surround yourself with your family and friends, so they can provide you with the support to make your dream happen!
What’s next for you professionally and how can people support you?
- My next steps professionally are to create a commercial kitchen to better serve our customers. This will likely be in our basement, so we can continue with the pick up and delivery model we are currently using, and expand sales to other businesses. To do this we will use our own savings, but also look at a subscriber type funding model to finance the expansion.
- So to support us, we need people to continue to come to our online shop to buy bread and other goodies. They need to be patient as we know things sell out quickly! Next, when we finalize our subscriber program, we need people to subscribe!!!
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix (or other streaming services) and why?
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
Continuing from the show picks, I loved reading The Last Kingdom series by Bernard Cornwell that the Netflix series is based on. Also, The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follet, and London by Edward Rutherfurd. Some of my favourite podcasts are Gastropodcast, Tides of History, The Strategists and Arc Energy Ideas.
What is one of your favourite restaurants or stores you’d recommend in Edmonton?
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
A place that people may not have checked out is Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park. I remember going there as a kid, and so glad that I have been able to take my son there too. Whenever we go camping in Jasper on our way back we would make our way up the winding road into the mountains to Miette Hot Springs. They have a few different pools from very hot to some nice cool refreshing ones. There is (at least there use to be) a nice little cafe to get lunch, and then we would head back home. It is a bit out of the way but worth the trip!
Thank you Larry for sharing your insights and experience.
You can connect with Larry online at:
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