What do you get when you mix a passionate family of Sunday bakers with a determined and passionate Jamaican? Meet Von Holness, our Assistant Production Manager and king of dad jokes at Sweet Flour
Von's passion for baking started at a young age, thanks to the Sunday baking traditions with his mom, grandma and aunties. He stumbled upon his first baking job through a friend's brother, and the rest is history. We caught up with Von to learn more about his background, his day-to-day at Sweet Flour, and what drives him.
How did you start working at Sweet Flour?
I’ve worked for Sweet Flour for five years - starting in March 2017. I moved from Jamaica where I had some bakery experience, but the love of baking really began in my childhood, baking often with the women in my family. After moving to Toronto, I had one year of formal training at George Brown, then had my eyes set on joining the Sweet Flour team. It is my first and only baking job in Canada!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a baker/make it your career?
Growing up, my aunties and my mom always baked every single Sunday, like clockwork, and I’d be at their elbows and underfoot, helping wherever I could. At 19, I reluctantly applied for a job at a bakery, thanks to a friend's insistence . However, once I started working there, everything fell into place, and my passion for baking grew. Despite it being a mass production bakery, I found my niche in a smaller department specializing in cakes and muffins. Over seven years, my enthusiasm and skills blossomed as I was given the freedom to experiment. Eventually, I moved to Canada to be with my girlfriend (now wife!), and after saving money for a year, enrolled in George Brown College's pastry program to pursue baking wholeheartedly.
Tell us about a day in the life working at Sweet Flour as a baker.
There are no two days that are the same at Sweet Flour. I’m usually the first baker in for the day where I review the outline for the production schedule and set up the kitchen and workspace accordingly. I’m responsible for a lot of our training, from the highschool co-op students to the new full time bakers; it’s challenging but I love watching as they grow and gain confidence. I also head up our production and more recently have been driving our product development. What I love best about the job is the team environment. The energy of the mix of people is inspiring - people from all backgrounds and all different skill levels, all working together to deliver the best products we can.
Baking can be pretty high stress, especially during the rush of the holiday season. What do you do to help your team keep calm and stay motivated?
I take over as DJ [lots of r&b and dancehall] and I tell the best dad jokes.
What is your favourite baked good to make?
It changes all the time. Baking is based on your mood, how you feel. At one time I only made different styles of cheesecake. Now, I am focusing on vegan cookies. While I’m not vegan myself, I grew up around people who didn’t eat meat or meat based products. I was introduced to vegan baking through a course at George Brown and have been practicing making vegan products using different fresh fruits, vinegars and flavoured oils ever since. Hot tip - I may be experimenting with Sweet Flour’s first ever vegan cookie ;)
What season (for work) is your favourite and why?
Summer. NOT winter. Can’t escape those Jamaican roots.
If you could give advice to someone wanting to get into this industry, what would it be?
Baking is not for the faint of heart! It takes dedication, practice and honing your craft. There is always something to learn and you will forever be humbled by it. It is a rewarding career and it is pure magic to envision something in your brain and see it come to life and become something people crave.