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The Brown Box
Decorated cakes are fast becoming a sensation and every day we are seeing talented pastry chefs creating delightful desserts to please anyone’s appetite for every event under the sun. One such person is Tricia Oliveire. A talented and professionally trained pastry chef, Tricia started baking at an early age with her great grandmother. Tricia’s recalls her grandmother coming from New York and bringing fancy things she wouldn't usually get here in Trinidad and during those times, she would bake chocolate chip cookies with her grandmother, even remembering those opportunities she got to use the hand mixer to cream butter and sugar for black cake at Christmas time. Because of her love for food, Tricia soon found herself in the employ of Solimar (a fine dining seafood restaurant) for seven years where she learned how to be a well rounded chef. After leaving Solimar, she pursued an Italian cooking course in Italy. “I was given a grant by the Ministry of Tourism for our representation of the country,” she explained. “For 4 years I competed as a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Culinary Team and then I decided to go to the Italian Culinary Institute. I went to Rome, Calabria and Venice discovering what the world had to offer in the culinary field.” Oliveire decided to create cakes full time after seeing her wedding cake made by the talented Irma Hannays. “I was blown away by the taste and the look of my wedding cake,” Oliveire said. “When I found out she offered classes I decided I would try it. It took me a few years before I could find the time to make it to her classes, though, but it was a good starting point.”
Oliveire’s cake business is known as ‘The Brown Box’, a unique name that came up on day while talking with her husband about a name for the business. “We were about to start the business and we were talking about what kind of packaging would be best for my products. Now, I always turned my cake boxes on the inside out to get the brown cardboard showing instead of the white, so I said, ‘let’s call it The Brown Box’ and the rest was a piece of cake.” Her working days are really working nights. During the day she takes care of her daughter, who is almost two, so no preschool yet, and both parents decided against day care. “All my work is done when she goes to bed. If I have a cake to make for Saturday, I bake on Thursday night, I crumb coat and set on Friday during the morning period so it dries and sets, and then Friday I start covering and designing. If I have pieces for the cake that require some time or need to dry, I will do it during the week and let it set, or sometimes I do it all when I decorate. I start at eight or nine at night and usually finish by two or three in the morning depending on how many cakes I have or the degree of difficulty,”Oliveire said.
Now that cake artistry is becoming popular, it’s easier for Oliveire to obtain the specialty products she needs. In the past she experienced some difficulty, mostly with finding products available locally. “It’s only recently that people have started supplying things on a regular basis, but I do most of my purchasing online to avoid the uncertainty. I try not to let anything ‘give me trouble’. I always make it work for me. My clients usually leave design up to me so that gives me a lot of flexibility. If something isn't working, I just come up with something else.” Though Oliveire bakes the cakes, she also checks and answers email, manages her customers and also does the deliveries sometimes, but she thoroughly enjoys every facet of the operation. She also appreciates having her hubby close by for motivational support and also to bounce around a few ideas. In case you’re wondering, Oliveire does not have a favourite cake type that she loves to create, she loves doing them ALL. “If I make a cake and I am not happy with it, I bake it over. It stems from my culinary background. I have represented Trinidad and Tobago on a regional level on many occasions as part of the Trinidad and Tobago Culinary Team, winning several medals and awards. That experience taught me to have a strong work ethic and a drive for quality. Still, I enjoy the creation of the cakes, taking pictures of the final product and making the client happy. It’s the best part of all.”
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