Giselle Courteau: Co-Owner, Duchess Bake Shop

As co-owner of Duchess Bake Shop, Giselle is the fearless leader who leads her team by example, taking risks and investing herself completely in her work. She is able to admit that she made mistakes in the beginning due to inexperience, but has come a long way since the time when she just had 3 part-time staff working with her in the kitchen. She now has a staff of 50 people and continues to work with her partners: Jacob and Garner.

The work that goes into innovation can often be long and quirky. Case in point: the macaron for which Duchess Bake Shop is famous is “just” a small cookie made of two meringue halves sandwiched over a cream filling. Giselle was determined to perfect the recipe so, while in Tokyo to teach English, she spent three years baking batch after batch in her toaster oven, the only oven she had, and tried more than 100 versions until she finally got it right. Besides the classic macaron flavors of salted caramel, pistachio, coconut, dark chocolate and lemon — she offers more whimsical flavours on a rotating basis such as blackcurrant, banana praline and raspberry.

When Giselle returned from Tokyo and had a look at the city she had left years prior, she noticed that something was happening here. Especially in the 124 Street and Area Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) where she saw there was a sense of community and an emerging citywide food scene. She felt a sense of possibility, like she could try anything and people were going to be excited about it.

Since opening in Fall 2009, Duchess Bake Shop has expanded, doubling the size of their front counter space for twice the inventory. In Fall 2012, they added Provisions, a baking supply store, next door and there are plans to open Parlour by Duchess, a high-end dessert bar in Edmonton’s downtown core, sometime in 2014. Giselle is also planning to write a Duchess cookbook but insists that there will never be a Duchess franchise – the business plan reads: “No preservatives, no mixes and no shortcuts.”

As one may suspect, Giselle’s community involvement has, thus far, revolved around donating pastries and desserts to various charities and events. She is particularly fond of the Westmount neighborhood and supports many activities in this community year round. As an Official Supplier to the Edmonton Opera, Duchess Bake Shop donates its catering service for many events and functions of this organization. Besides supporting the arts, Duchess Bake Shop has also donated to sporting events such as the Alberta Francophone Sports Federation’s annual Golf Par Excellence Tournament. Unsold pastries are donated to the Bissell Centre.

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