When Rachel Jongejan was growing up, she was a huge fan of the Food Network and its baking shows.
Now things have come full circle for her as Jongejan and two friends will compete on the show The Big Bake this spring on the Food Network Canada.
“It’s crazy!” Jongejan exclaimed. “It’s so surreal!” She can’t believe something she dreamed about for years finally became a reality.
Jongejan — along with teammates Cory Jong and Leila Shook — formed Team Flour Power and will compete for $10,000 May 5.
“We had five hours to make a cake.”
“It was so tall,” emphasized Jong.
“It had to have moving parts, be fully edible, and we had to bake it,” added Shook.
According to foodnetwork.ca, The Big Bake is “an over-the-top baking competition series in which teams of three talented bakers compete to create the freshest, awe-inspiring cake displays.”
Of course, the episode has already been shot, edited, and delivered to the control room at the Food Network and now only awaits its broadcast date.
So although the three know how it all baked out, everyone else will have to tune in to see if they bring home the $10k.
“We can’t tell you what happened,” laughed Jongejan. “We all had to sign non-disclosure agreements.”
Even though the trio knows the outcome, Team Flour Power is eager to see themselves on the small screen and to learn what the other teams were doing and saying behind the scenes.
“We were focusing on our stuff,” said Jong. “We had five hours, but you’re so busy creating your own cake — you don’t have time to look over to see what the other team is doing.”
The team explained they all had to apply to The Big Bake individually. Once they were all accepted, then they formed their team.
Jong hails from Burnaby, while Shook and Jongejan are both from Cloverdale.
They all describe the experience as crazy and incredible with high stress, but ultimately a tonne of fun.
“It was, like, bam!” Jong exclaimed with a big smile, slamming his palm on the table. “Suddenly we were done and the show was done.”
“It sounds like a lot of time, but it’s not,” added Jongejan.
The team said they don’t have plans for a watch party yet, but there may be an in-store viewing at Jongejan’s bakery in Clayton Heights — Happycakes.
Team Flour Power is not allowed to talk about hardly anything related to the actual on screen competition, but they did reveal their baking theme for the episode was “spring.”
“We had to plan everything, build our structure, all on set within five hours,” explained Jongejan.
“It was hectic,” said Shook, “but it was such a dream.”
“We all watched these shows when we started making cakes,” added Jongejan. “So just to be there on set, and to have the opportunity to do it — it’s just bonkers.”
Being on Team Flour Power sparked a deep bond between the three.
And all followed similar paths to becoming professional bakers: a love for baking pulled them away from other pursuits, slowly drawing them into the kitchen.
Jong got into baking as a second-choice career path.
“I originally went to school for video game art design,” he said.
Jong found himself baking in his spare time and having a lot of fun with it. Then one day he realized his creative heart firmly beat in baking. So it was back to school.
“I went to VCC to learn baking and pastry art,” Jong said. After that, Jong worked at a bread bakery, then moved on to work at a cupcake shop. Finally, he decided to immerse himself into making cakes and cupcakes and created his business out of that.
Now Jong runs Hey! Cake This!
He said Hey! Cake This! is about making “sweets and delicious creations with a nerdy and geeky spin on them.”
“Come to me with any idea, and I’ll cake it,” he said.
Shook got her baking start in 2011 after a eureka moment of inspiration. Shook’s uncle got a custom cake made for another relative’s birthday. When Shook saw the cake, she was hooked on baking from that moment.
“I was gobsmacked by (this cake),” remembered Shook. “My sister’s birthday was two months later. So I spent two months studying up on cakes.”
Shook then baked a “3D, luau pig cake” for her sister and she loved it.
But Shook didn’t pursue baking right away, either. She went to dental school and worked as a dental assistant full time until her son was born.
She started baking again “for diaper money,” but was soon drawn back in as the demand for her creations grew and grew.
“Everything just snowballed from there.”
“I love to bake new things. I just love to push the boundaries of what can be done.”
Jongejan got into baking when she was sixteen after being obsessed with the show Cake Boss.
“My mom thought Cake Boss was stupid,” she laughed.
Jongejan followed a circuitous path to baking too, as she soon went to school to study education and seemingly left baking behind. During her studies, though, she landed a job working at a bakery.
Then, one day, she came home with some news that startled her mother.
“I told my mom I was quitting university because I just wanted to make cakes.”
Her mom wasn’t thrilled, but Jongejan soon got hired at Happycakes and the die was cast.
Happycakes has been open in Clayton Heights for about 10 years.
“I started working for (the previous owner) about six years ago,” said Jongejan. Then about three years ago the owner wanted to move on.
“She wanted me to buy it,” explained Jongejan. “And I was 22. And I said, ‘No.’ And she said, ‘Please.’ And then I said, ‘Okay.’”
But it wasn’t easy for Jongejan to convert that ‘Okay’ into a business loan. She was turned down by bank after bank.
“I was 22,” she explained. “And I had no money. And I had no assets. And I had no business experience whatsoever.”
After running around for a few months, she was finally granted a “giant business loan.”
“I took a leap,” she said. “Everyone told me not to do it, but I did it because I like cake,” she said with another laugh.
“My mom left her corporate job at the same time, so she started working with me. Three years later, we have changed a lot of things and made a lot of improvements and my mom is still working with me.”
Jongejan now has nine staff members working for her and she is quite satisfied with where Happycakes is at as a business.
“It’s crazy,” she said, lost in the thought of looking back over the three years she’s owned the bakery. “Just the fact that it happened — that the opportunity came up for me.”
Jongejan said her life was crazy after she got the keys to Happycakes.
“I worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day,” she remembered. “When I finally hired enough staff to take one day off a week, I was thriving.”
She felt the business changed for the better about a year after she took over. She spent time infusing the bakery with new ideas and working to increase her customer base.
“I’m so grateful to Lisa Low for the foundation that she laid for (Happycakes),” Jongejan said. “Finding an operating business changes the game. I started with the ball rolling and tried to improve things along the way.”
Now that things are successful for her at Happycakes, Jongejan is able to manage the higher operations of the business and concentrate on creativity.
But with all her success, she has no plans to expand.
“Never!” she exclaimed with a laugh. “That’s the number one thing people ask me. But my goal is just to make cakes and to be the best bakery in Clayton Heights.”
Team Flour Power takes the kitchen on Tuesday, May 5 at 6 p.m. The new season for “The Big Bake” begins March 31.