Eleven years have passed since I remember waiting for this bakery to open.
Gastown has gone through a stumbling block of changes, Cadeaux Bakery, at the end of Powell Street, was the gift the neighbourhood was waiting for in 2013.
For years Cadeaux focused on their fresh bakery items going out by the dozens to offices, whereas now that is still an option, Cadeaux is well known for their delicate 9-layer cakes.
“We were so invested and excited in our craft so we named the business Cadeaux Bakery (even though friends told us not to name in two languages! I wanted to be the change in this neighbourhood. Sadly, that didn’t happen around us, but we are here still,” said Pastry Chef Eleanor Chow-Waterfall, originally from Vernon, first generation immigrants from China.
I remember being one of the first to walk through Cadeaux doors, the bakery is bright airy and beautiful. If you haven’t been inside: mainly white walls, two large mirrors hanging over the cash register that list café menu items in black felt pen; To the left of the register fresh baked items; to the right a glass fridge lined with beautiful cakes, mainly long, rectangular; Behind the white register (made to resemble a low marble kitchen counter), guests have an open view of the kitchen. This was the first time I had seen this at a bakery. “You are right,” said Eleanor, “this was the first bakery in Vancouver with this open concept. I wanted everyone to see what we are doing, we have nothing to hide. The pastries are always an afterthought and in the back in restaurants.” She wanted to create a space where you could see everything, from batter to baked. “Everything we make is a gift, so there comes in Cadeaux,” said Eleanor.
“This neighbourhood has gotten terrible. And it sucks for it because we came in the hopes of changing and revitalizing this area,” said Eleanor.
Waterfall came from some of the best kitchens in Vancouver, Chambar, Blue Water Café, Bearfoot Bistro, Lumière (sadly now gone), Dirty Apron and others. Her culinary training started young at Dubrulle French Cullinary School which gave her technique and inspiration of delicate yet bold flavours, exactly a mirror of this neighbourhood. Being on the edge of Gastown and East Hastings, this neighbourhood takes patience. Although you do have to walk with purpose, there are many that will help you out if you treat them with the same respect as you wish to be treated.
Eleanor and her husband, met while she was working at Chambar and Mr. Waterfall married just before opening Cadeaux, with her at-that-time business partner (who she bought out of the company two years later). Her kids, now 10 and 6, were a big part of her business plan. Eleanor and her partner had the same vision: do what they love and be able to have their children around too. “When we first opened, I had my first here all the time. That’s the great thing about owning your own business. She (Isabelle) would sit with me for a good 10 hours!
“Having my kids around has really changed the dynamic of my workplace. We are so family oriented now. We all have been here for a long time. Blake too has almost been here since the beginning,” said Waterfall.
The bakery has a good understanding amongst themselves, this is a family run business and employees are the extension of the family. There’s a large black and white photo by the café bar, “That’s my mother and older brother. It was my brother’s birthday and she had woken him up at 5am just to give him a cake and blow out his candles before she had to go to work,” Eleanor explained.
If you were sitting in your office wondering why you weren’t getting fresh croissants regularly anymore, Cadeaux transitioned from wholesale baked goods delivered to offices to hone on their craft of cakes. I know you miss her croissants, because they are the best in Vancouver.
Everything Cadeaux brings out is made from scratch daily – cakes, cupcakes, croissants, pies, cookies, scones… Eleanor’s plan to open a bakery and be able to spend time with her children was getting overshadowed by 2am starts and Covid hit them hard loosing 99% of their business basically overnight. “Covid made me feel like I needed to stop dreaming, it made me feel hesitant for sure,” said Eleanor. The bakery raised their prices only about 25 cents per item even though her raw items have gone up about 300% in the last two years!
Local produce is important. Large amounts of fresh fruit direct from farms is too much for a bakery like Cadeaux so they heavily rely on local distribution services like Legends Haul to get them what they need, fresh local produce in the quantities needed. “Lavender is local…I go into Chinatown and buy fruits and veggies from the local vendors, you know, they are my peeps!”
Leftover goods? Cadeaux donates to an outreach program in the Downtown East Side, giving back the community they are a part of.
Eleanor’s parents own a 10 acre farm in Armstrong where summertime there is no shortage of fresh fruits and veggies from-farm-to-Cadeaux! Cherries and plums, grapes and zucchini are all from Eleanor’s farm.
This zucchini mocha take is one of the best soft chocolatey cakes I have ever tasted; No, it does not taste like Zucchini: moist chocolate cake, a strip of mocha mouse on the top, all covered with a super soft chocolate outside and topped with gold edible flakes. No photos to share from the inside as my cake did not live long enough to do so.
Visit Cadeaux Bakery at 172 Powell Street, Vancouver, just not on Monday or Tuesday as they are closed.
They are very quick with custom orders and Blake is always there to help answer all your questions.
PS: Congratulations Colin!