You know how it goes, one second you’re studying for your psychology degree and the next thing you know you’re starting your own baking business. At least, that’s the story if you’re Melanie Christodoulides. She was just your typical student when she realized how much baking helped ease her. That’s where we started this back and forth and where we ended up was how La Meli came to be, the classes she takes pride in, and more.
Kendra: When did you take baking from something you did at home and turn it into a business?
Melanie Christodoulides: Back in 2010, I was completing my honours degree in psychology and during my study breaks I would bake and ice cupcakes. I found it to be very therapeutic for me; I would spend hours just doing this repetitive icing to “calm down.” Once I received my results I needed to do my community service and since our results came out late all placements were booked out. I had eight months of “waiting time” so I just decided one day, well let me bake and sell a few cupcakes to keep busy and make some extra money. I told a few of my friends I was starting up my own business and a few weeks later I had orders that I couldn’t even keep up with!
Kendra: When you first got into baking, was there a particular baker or chef that inspired you to do so?
Melanie Christodoulides: Not really, I just always loved creating beautiful things. I started making biscuits and cupcakes, then ventured to big cakes. Love to buy different recipe books and try new things.
Kendra: Today baking is so much more than flavor. Desserts not only have to taste great but look amazing. 15 years ago we were amazed by a sheet cake from the grocery store with some flowers. Today? It’s all about layers and decor that goes above and beyond. Why do you feel we’ve shifted towards more decorative cakes and desserts than before?
Melanie Christodoulides: I think being exposed to shows like Cake Boss, Masterchef and the like the food/dessert industry has a whole new meaning. Living in today’s time with information at your fingertips it’s continuously evolving. As cake decorators, we definitely have our hands full trying to meet clients’ expectations of what they want their cakes to look like more than taste like.
Kendra: And do you feel like more bakers are taking up art classes to keep up with the demand for Instagram-worthy cakes and treats?
Melanie Christodoulides: Absolutely! I think many cake makers, especially in their early years, will take up many classes to learn all the techniques needed in the trade.
Kendra: Speaking of classes, you offer some throughout the year. When did you start doing that and have you given any thought to adding more types than the assembling and decorating tiered cake course?
Melanie Christodoulides: I’m very passionate about teaching people skills. When I decided to employ ladies to help me out in the decorating studio I taught them everything I knew from scratch and I loved watching them grow and develop their skills. They beamed with joy when they created something with their hands and this spilled into our entire work culture. I had a few of my customers ask me to please do a class or two and from there it grew. Many of my students are returning for more classes which always makes me feel that I’m doing something right and that they love being there. Every year we change our classes up and teach new skills.
Kendra: What do you and La Meli have coming up as we head deeper into 2019?
Melanie Christodoulides: As we head deeper into 2019 our walls are covered with orders! When September arrives we literally run between all types of cakes, biscuits, prep, chocolate corners, piping cupcakes, dipping Oreos, you name it! It’s wedding season, so sugar flowers are continuously on the go.
I love the energy at our shop during this time, although the pressure is really on and we nearly collapse at the end of a busy week. I sometimes find myself just circulating between my staff checking their work every five minutes and feeling so grateful to be running between these talented and committed ladies. I’m very blessed to have all of them beside me and although I can be pretty tough on them, La Meli wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for their dedication and hard work.