Wendy Boys: How To Become A Top Pastry Chef

Where are you from?
Stettler, Alberta. No good restaurants, no celebrity chefs.

Formal training?
Culinary arts program at SAIT in Calgary. I was class valedictorian.

First job?
Happened to be as a pastry chef. At the Belvedere in Calgary. I really liked the control, precision, repetition of doing desserts.

Then what?
I went to work for Otto deNooij, a European pastry chef, at the Petroleum Club. Then Michael Noble, when he moved to Calgary and opened Catch. It was great, but gruelling, servicing three restaurants. Had a chance to work with Thomas Haas there, too. It really upped the bar.

Why Vancouver?
I met a guy. He was moving here, and I came with him. I got a job at the Lazy Gourmet, doing Nanaimo bars and such.  

How’d you get to Lumière?
I’d walk by there, starry-eyed, thinking, “Maybe one day I’ll be able to eat here.” Then I heard they were looking for a pastry chef and I submitted a résumé. Marc-André Choquette hired me.

What did you learn?
Finesse. Seasonality. Locality. On Friday afternoons, farmers would show up at the back with beautiful raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb.

Why did you leave?
When Daniel Boulud came in, I went to New York and spent a week at Daniel. I should have been more interested, I guess, but I just wasn’t in that space.

So next stop, Cactus Club?
After Rob Feenie signed on, he put me on retainer. It’s been a huge challenge. Dreaming up new desserts is easy. The hard part is delivering product for a good price that you can ship or duplicate across Western Canada. And it has to be  perfect every time.

Like the peanut butter crunch bar?
Right. Now our number-one-selling dessert.

And you’ve launched your own line.
I broke my ankle in five places—gardening, of all things. I wasn’t able to work, so I started making stuff for friends. People would ask where they could get more. Now they’re in over 100 stores across the country.

Advice for the amateur?
Start with the best ingredients. Valrhona chocolate. Organic evaporated cane syrup. And kosher salt.


Starved to get more dessert info?

Check out Vancouver’s Best Desserts or raid our favorite pastry chefs’ pantries.

If you’re in the mood for chocolate, learn more about its journey from the cacao bean.