Meets a measure of moderation
For Anna Olson, life is sweet. Her Food Network program <em>Sugar</em> has finished its fifth season; the second cookbook, <em>Another Cup of Sugar</em> (Whitecap, 2006), was released last fall; and her Port Dalhousie Olson Foods and Bakery is drawing droves of customers from the Niagara Peninsula.
For Anna Olson, life is sweet. Her Food Network program Sugar has finished its fifth season; the second cookbook, Another Cup of Sugar (Whitecap, 2006), was released last fall; and her Port Dalhousie Olson Foods and Bakery is drawing droves of customers from the Niagara Peninsula. Her passion for the final course has served her well. It also might make her a seemingly strange addition to the pages of alive, and yet Canada’s reigning queen of confectionary is the epitome of healthy, happy, and energized. Her secret? “Everything in moderation.” Surrounded by tiers of fresh pastries, racks of artisan cheese, and shelves filled to bursting with pantry pleasers of every stripe, Olson has maintained both her figure and her sense of balance. With Olson Food and Bakery expanding its sweet and savoury kitchen in July 2006, Olson has become a primary purveyor of regionally rooted delicacies. As renowned now for her salacious sandwiches as for her much-celebrated sweets, she remains a staunch advocate of conscious consumption. “I have never dieted in my life. Moderation is the key,” said Olson. “Too many of us have built a negative emotional relationship with sweets. We deprive ourselves, then overindulge; the end result is getting stuck in an unhealthy guilt cycle.” Olson did not intend to become one of the country’s most prolific pastry chefs, though her early years of home baking with her mother and grandmother certainly provided ample foundation. Instead, she groomed to be a chef, secured her papers, and went to work in the busy French Quarter of New Orleans before shifting over to a small operation in Vale, Colorado that demanded much multitasking. “I found myself being drawn to the pastry side,” explained Olson, who went on to find sweet success and her future husband, Chef Michael Olson, while working as the pastry chef of Niagara’s Inn on the Twenty restaurant. “It’s really beautiful how it all blended together.”' Sitting comfortably in the interior mall that houses her shop, Olson pauses to consider why baking is still considered such a difficult science–even to those who love to cook. “Baking is a tough hurdle, but I really don’t think there is an inherent disposition required to bake. People just need to tackle it with a bit more confidence.” “Remember, baking is all about the act of sharing and generosity, so no matter how the final product turns out, your friends and family will forgive you any wobbles,” said Olson. “At the core, baking is about common sense and a respect for technique. Patience is a virtue, but the quality of the ingredients must come first.” For Olson, that means taking careful stock of her professional pantry and sourcing out the best. Case in point: all chocolate is neither equal nor evil, and she hosts chocolate tastings to spread that particular wisdom. “We work with organic fair-trade chocolate, and experimenting with the various profiles of different estate chocolates is eye opening,” said Olson. “Taste is still the number one priority, but some chocolates are certainly tastier and healthier than others.” While working in front of the camera has been an ongoing honour, Olson has never been happier than behind the counter of her own shop. Moving from the restaurant kitchen to the food stage to retail has been an evolution marked by an ever-increasing satisfaction. “I feel like a kid in a candy store–but it’s our store,” said Olson with a grin. “Being this much closer to the customer has really been a joy. It’s that human contact that puts the smile on my face; and the stories my customers share are an ongoing inspiration.” Recipes