BeaverTails marks 40 years of deep-fried pastries

Forty years ago, Pam and Grant Hooker hauled their pastry shack to a local fair. The rest is sweet, sticky history.

The Ottawa favourite can now be found across the globe

Fourty years ago, Pam and Grant Hooker hauled their pastry shack to a local fair. The rest is sweet, sticky history.

In 1978, Pam and Grant Hooker set up a stall at a community fair to sell their deep-fried pastries, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

It was the beginning of the Ottawa dessert institution BeaverTails.

"You could call it a shack. I think the posts were cedar that had come out of the bush. I pulled the burner out of a propane hot water heater — that was our stove," Grant Hooker told CBC Radio's In Town and Out on Saturday.

"That's where we took our family treat and offered it to the public in exchange, at the time, for 75 cents."

A global expansion 

The company, now a global franchise, celebrated its 40th birthday Saturday. 

Today the pastries can be found in Japan, South Korea, France, the United Arab Emirates and several other countries and cities across the world. 

The original recipe was passed on from Hooker's grandmother, who loved to bake all sorts of pastries and breads.

He said he would he would eat several of her little pastries at a time. At home, they'd top them with cinnamon sugar, honey or jam. 

Since then the recipes have evolved to include extras like Reese's Pieces, hazelnut chocolate, and maple cream.

The flavours are the same across the franchise, Hooker told In Town and Out — and for good reason.

"If you open the door to creativity, you may have some good ideas — but you probably have a lot of bad ideas [too]," he said.

"And those bad ideas will be put into people's mouths, and that's not good for the [brand]."

The proudest achievement 

Now based in Montreal, BeaverTails is owned by a group for former frontline workers. The Hookers remain minority owners, operating all BeaverTails operations in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. 

The proudest achievement over the last 40 years, Hooker said, has been the environment they've provided to the 9,000 to 11,000 young employees who've worked at the stores. 

"Mentoring young people is the thing we are most proud of," he said.