Hola! I’m Ana and I am the creative mind and baker behind Metate Kitchen.
I was born and raised in a small town south of Mexico City called Cuernavaca. When I was 14, I made the move to Canada along with my mom and sister and the rest is history.
After high school, I went into Health Sciences at McGill University in Montreal. Believe it or not, I originally wanted to be a doctor. Sadly, three years in and to my parents dismay, I knew medicine was not really my true calling in life so I took a semester off to explore another passion of mine: cooking.
During my time off from University, I knew I wanted to learn proper cooking techniques, but not necessarily in a traditional school-like setting. I was also feeling terribly homesick at the time so the Diplomado en Historia & Gastronomia Mexicana (Mexican History and Culinary Arts Certificate) at Escuela de Gastronomia Mexicana seemed like the perfect fit. A couple of months later, I was on my way to Mexico City.
At Escuela de Gatronomia Mexicana, not only did I learn some rather creative cooking techniques, but most importantly, I fell in love with our Mexico lindo y querido all over again. The chefs and instructors I was incredibly fortunate to have met while in Mexico showed me to appreciate Mexico’s beauty (flaws included!) through the lens of its rich culinary heritage. It was an amazing experience! Little did I know this renewed love for Mexico would later become the foundation for what some of you have come to know as Metate Bake Shop for the past couple of years.
I had dipped my toes in the world of the culinary arts and I wanted more. It was time to go back to school – to culinary school this time. I immediately enrolled in the Chef’s Training program at George Brown College in Toronto after my time in Mexico. The program was only a few months long so I soon started working in restaurant kitchens around the city.
Life was good. I was young and full of hopes and dreams. Sleep deprivation meant nothing to me back then. All in the name of experience, right? Ah, the good old days. However, I started noticing many new restaurants in the city looking for cooks with pastry experience – something I had none of. “Hmm, something to consider”, I thought.
I didn’t want to fully commit to pastry as it wasn’t something I was really into. Ironic, isn’t it? I just wanted a touch of pastry experience on my resume. The basics, you know. A few months later, I was working as a part-time pastry assistant at a deli in Toronto on top of my regular full-time job in catering. This is definitely the job that led me down the road to becoming a pastry chef thanks to the amazing pastry team I got to work with there.
A few years and pastry jobs later, I started looking into the possibility of going to pastry school. This time I wanted the Europe or New York experience just like any other young chef out there. And, just like any other young chef, I definitely would have not being able to afford to even live in any of those places. Luckily enough, though, a pilot pastry program was in the works at George Brown College in Toronto. It was an Advanced French Patisserie program that would allow me to work and study in France all while paying Canadian tuition rather than International tuition. Jackpot!
My time in France was an absolutely eye-opening experience. I learned a lot inside and outside the kitchen. I went to school at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Pâtisserie and did a stage at a Michelin star restaurant located a few hours south of Paris: Relais Bernard Loiseau. If you’ve ever watched Ratatouille, Bernard Loiseau was the inspiration for the movie as he tragically committed suicide in his own kitchen when his third Michelin star was taken away. However, his wife and his then sous chef carry on his legacy to this very day by beautifully replicating some of Chef Loiseau’s most emblematic dishes.
Being part of a Michelin star kitchen can without a doubt turn anyone into a perfectionist – especially when said restaurant has played such an important role in France’s culinary history. Nothing coming out of the kitchen could be good or excellent, it had to be…PERFECT! And, as you can probably imagine, attempting to achieve perfection day after day can take its toll on people. I worked very long hours while in France, I learned more than I could have ever imagined, I loved and dreaded every minute I spent in that kitchen, I made some good friends, but I also burned out. It was time for me to come home.
Upon my return to Vancouver, I knew I needed a change of pace if I wanted to make this career sustainable in the long run. Fortunately, within a few weeks, I found an amazing pastry position at a local cafe here in Vancouver. No ridiculously long hours and plenty of creative freedom – it was exactly what I needed.
Having plenty of creative freedom in the workplace, truly allowed me to develop my own pastry style. I learned I liked colour, light and subtle flavours, different textures. I wanted my pastries to reflect my story. This is how and when the concept behind Metate Bake Shop was born.
The idea behind Metate Bake Shop was to introduce the concept of pan dulce to Vancouver. Not only the product itself, but the experience that goes along with it. If you’ve ever been to a panaderia or were taken to one as a kid growing up in Mexico, you know what I mean. That overwhelming experience of joy and indecisiveness all thrown into one. That warm feeling you get when you walk into the panaderia and the smell of fresh bread hits you. That feeling of being back home. I wanted people to experience the Mexico I grew up in. I wanted people to see Mexico as more than a synonym to cartels, crime and all-inclusive resorts. I was terrified to venture out on my own but I wanted to show people what Mexico has to offer, one pastry at a time.
Starting a food business (especially a bakery!) requires time and money. I had time but definitely not the kind of money to start a business from scratch. When I started Metate Bake Shop, shared commissary kitchens were becoming quite trendy in the small business world. I figured it would probably be a good idea to look into them as an option. And, guess what? It was. In 2018, Metate Bake Shop had found a home at Commissary Connect.
Running my own business came with its ups and downs. Here between us, when it came to Metate, I felt like the ups always outweighed the lows. I loved being able to share a bit of Mexico with anyone who would let me. I loved being able to bake my way through life. I loved meeting wonderful people at the farmer’s markets and pop ups. I loved becoming friends with those people. I loved being able to build a community around something that was so close to my heart. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go as planned and at the end of 2019, I made the extremely difficult decision to put Metate on hold. I needed to re-evaluate if it made sense to keep going. Personal relationships were struggling, health was deteriorating by the minute, Vancouver was becoming increasingly expensive. I felt like maybe it was time to take a step back to reassess. Interestingly enough, though, I was getting ready for Metate to take a well-deserved break when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Life does take some unpredictable turns, doesn’t it?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that I wholeheartedly enjoy baking and my memories of Mexico are what inspire me to do so. At this point, I sincerely do not know when I will be back baking in the kitchen as a business. But, with the help of this blog, I want to continue sharing my passion for baking and my love for Mexico with all of you. Bienvenidos to Metate Kitchen!