›› Lauren Gaultier
Daniel Vokey, owner of Patisserie Daniel, opened his first shop on Fort Street 30 years ago in 1992 and, after significant growth in his wholesale business, he opened his second location on Cook Street in 1994. Eventually, after starting a family, he decided to scale down his wholesale operations, close the Fort Street location, and focus on retail operations from the Fernwood location.
Through our hour-long conversation, it became abundantly clear, that on top of being a passionate, creative, and dedicated pastry chef, Daniel is primarily a community builder. We spoke much more of customer stories than we did of food. We looked at photos on the wall and he recounted his memory of entering a local pie baking contest with his daughter. I learned that his more than 20 staff members range in age from 14 to 75 including two employees that have been with him for 22 years and also how each of his family members work with him and play a role in the business. I learned about his volunteer work with children making marzipan at the hospital, and about seeing his customers grow from single, to partnered, to growing families, and now even some of those children becoming employees. He shared a story of an unhoused elderly person on an old bench across the street and lessons his son learned from the gesture of providing a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun. We talked about customers that he invited to participate in making chocolates or decorating flowers and countless others that all represented a special place in the history of Patisserie Daniel.
Even the walls have a story to tell. You may have noticed it is adorned from wall to wall with wooden cutting boards which all started with a simple gesture from a customer who was downsizing and gifted Daniel a very old traditional bakery board. From there, Daniel posted about it saying “I got board” and received an outpouring of additional boards from customers and neighbours alike. Now he has hundreds still waiting to go up which he hopes to eventually cover the ceiling with.
It is clear that in his 28 year history in Fernwood, the customers are the driving force behind his passion for community and commitment to craft. So next time you stop by, maybe ask about a board, or a picture on the wall—you will walk away with a full belly and a full heart.