Nfld. & Labrador

How one local baker went from St. John's to Le Cordon Bleu — and back

In 2014, Liz Drover's husband was offered a job in Paris. The couple's move gave her a chance to work in a bakery and attend cooking school, and now she has a business of her own.

An unexpected move to Paris gave Liz Drover the opportunity to change careers and learn to bake with the best

A two-year stint in Paris gave Liz Drover the opportunity to switch careers. When she returned to St. John's, she opened her home bakery, Butter Baking. (Elizabeth Whitten)

In a home in the heart of St. John's, Liz Drover regularly gets up before sunrise and heads to the kitchen. This is the headquarters for Butter Bakery.

The business itself is new — Drover started it in 2017, a few months after she returned from living in Paris for two and a half years. But it was a goal years in the making.

She'd once joked to her husband that if she could do anything she wanted, she'd run a bakery. At the time is was said in jest. After all, she was an engineer — but the field didn't satisfy her. 

"I wasn't quite sure at the time what I wanted to do," she said, so she enrolled in an education degree. Just as she was finishing her program, her husband was offered a position in Paris in the fall of 2014. That move made Drover's dream a reality.

A swipe of edible gold paint, as seen on these macarons, is Drover's trademark. (Elizabeth Whitten)

"If I'm ever going to work in baking, this is like the opportunity to take it from hobby to something a little more real," she said of the location change. 

"So we moved, and I decided to switch."

A different city

When the couple arrived in Paris, it was apparent how different the city was from St. John's. 

Drover makes custom cakes, some of them topped with macarons. (Liz Drover)

"All the neighbourhoods, they're like little communities in and of themselves. Every little arrondissement has their several boulangeries, several butchers, little cheese shops; there's no end to all the delicious things that you can find," she said.

"Every pastry shop window is just like this beautiful case full of beautiful things."

In Paris, Drover started working for another Newfoundlander who happened to own a bakery called Bertie's CupCakery. The job gave her hands-on experience in a bakery as well as a grasp of running a business.

It also meant she could pursue classes at Le Cordon Bleu and other private cooking schools in the city. She enrolled in courses that covered specific skills, like making macarons, bread and chocolate, and even a wine course.

"If there's anywhere to learn," she said of her food education, "it's definitely in Paris."

French desserts with a local touch

When the two-and-half-years were over, Drover and her husband bid adieu to Paris and moved back to St. John's in the spring of 2017. A few months later, Drover opened Butter Bakery.

Her menu covers French staples, including tartlettes, macarons, eclairs, croissants and custom cakes.

Local, in-season berries in the desserts add a Newfoundland and Labrador touch, and the berries are particularly special to her because her 90-year-old grandmother helps her pick them.

In addition to cakes and macarons, Drover also makes classic French pastries like this pain au chocolat. (Andrew Hitchen)

"I think using local where possible is awesome, and Newfoundland has so many amazing berries that I think deserve to be featured whenever possible," Drover said.

Initially, Drover wanted to open a small boutique bakery but couldn't find the right space. She decided instead to work from home doing custom orders, which would allow her to get a feel for the local market.

She hopes to get an independent space in the future, so she can allow customers to pick up their orders instead of delivering them herself. Her own bakery location would also allow her to hire help, for administrative tasks or the baking itself.

Drover hopes to open a bakery in an independent location eventually, but for now Butter Bakery is based in her home kitchen. (Elizabeth Whitten)

But in the meantime business has been going well. People are learning about Butter Bakery through social media and word of mouth and the very French macarons are one of her best sellers so far — which doesn't surprise Drover.

"French desserts are kind of like the pinnacle of desserts."

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