Imagine the airy, yet creamy texture of angelica cheesecake with a unique yet familiar flavour that simply melts in your mouth and leaves you only wanting more. Senior Pastry Chef de Partie, Karen Soulodre found the recipe in an old French cookbook and mastered the dessert for one of Langdon Hall’s popular summer events. It’s this creative freedom in the kitchen that appeals to Karen and her love of baking that makes her job at Langdon Hall so enjoyable.
Growing up in Owen Sound with her parents and four siblings, Karen had yet to discover her passion for cooking. She enjoyed her mother’s typical “farm food” with the multitude of casseroles that most likely included the current season’s vegetables. She never imagined one day her career would lead her to the kitchen.
After high school, Karen moved to Kitchener and attended Seneca College. “I was artistic and creative and this lead me to Seneca College to become a makeup artist. Although, I ended up gravitating towards the business side of the program, and ultimately the pharmaceutical industry.”
Karen began her career a local pharmacy and through hard work and determination she worked her way up the ladder to Store Manager and excelled for over 20 years. Although the pharmaceutical industry was a large part of Karen’s life, a trip to Europe would change her career path completely. Her first experience traveling to Europe revealed that the world had more to offer her.
“I can truly say that my first trip to Europe changed my life and my love of food,” says Karen. “I drank coffee in Italy, indulged in the breads and cheese of France, and found a new world that awoke something special in me.”
In 2010, Karen made a daunting, yet thrilling decision to leave her management position and attend cooking school. Her studies revealed a passion for pastry and she entered the fine dining scene right away, eager to learn from the best.
She gained valuable experience, strengthening her skills at reputable establishments such as the Charcoal Group, Millcroft Inn, and the 4-diamond restaurant Verses in Kitchener, before submitting her resume to Langdon Hall in 2014.
Karen was familiar with Langdon Hall’s impressive reputation but she also had a personal experience when her son Parry chose the venue for his wedding. Her next experience would prove to surpass her expectations.
I was truly honoured to be offered this position and learn from such an incredible team,” explains Karen. “With such passionate owners, Langdon Hall has created a caring staff culture that has been accommodating, kind, and flexible.” There is no typical day at work for Karen. She can go from working on the pastry line, running a wedding or Langdon event, or bringing out her creative side with menu development. However, her favourite role is in the bakery making bread.
“There is something emotionally satisfying with working with my hands to create something so simple, yet so intricate. To me, making bread links me to what others are doing all across the world,” says Karen. “Patience is definitely key.”
Now in her 50s, Karen couldn’t be happier with her career change and the freedom to express her artistic side at Langdon Hall. Last fall Karen successfully earned her Baker-Patissier certification with the Ontario College of Trades and continues to passionately develop her skills.
At home, Karen and her husband Charles take pride in their flower and vegetable gardens and love cruising around in their vintage Ford truck, Maggie. They also continue their true enjoyment of traveling the world to explore the cuisine.
But what does the future hold?
If I had one dream it would be to own an artisanal ice cream shop,” says Karen. “What I have learned is that anything is possible with dedication and hard work, and not to be afraid to take risks to achieve your dream.