A Marriage Frosted with Love
Great creations come out of bakery kitchens all over the world every day, but it’s rare to find a creation as perfect as André and Alvina Boldori, two Brazilians who met while living in London and have married their talents (and each other) to create the first American-style bakery in Curitiba.
André is from Maringá originally, where he completed undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in Business before getting the travel bug and heading off to London in 2005. For most people, a few weeks’ vacation in a foreign country is sufficient, but André isn’t most people. Rather than take a vacation, he elected to immerse himself in British culture because he believed that for a complete education, two university degrees in Brazil weren’t enough. For him, understanding another culture is an essential element of life.
Although André’s primary interest was computers and IT (Information Technology), he knew he wouldn’t find a job in IT in England without fluency in English, so he added conquering English as another mountain to climb. (He already spoke Spanish after completing an exchange program in Venezuela through the Rotary in 1999.)
Rather than dream of the mountains he would one day conquer, André proceeded to begin climbing. First step, he found a job as a waiter, which he knew would force him to learn English quickly. Before long, he found himself promoted in the restaurant to a supervisor and then manager. His boss soon recognized André’s management skills and ambition and invited him to exit the kitchen and work for her directly in the Finance Department of the Compass Group, the company that owned the restaurant he was managing. Thanks to his work ethic and focus, he was quickly capable of handling the financial aspects of the food business – and all in English. When he told his boss of his love of computers, she encouraged him to pursue a degree in IT in London in the evenings. For the next 3 ½ years he worked in finance while finishing his IT degree in English in London.
It was during this period that André met Alvina. Like André, she too had dreams of expanding her Brazilian horizons and had left Brazil to live and work in Europe. Thanks to her family, she was able to land a job in Italy in a restaurant, where she stayed for six years, eventually becoming a chef. However, she decided it was baking that really captured her fancy, and she left Italy and moved to London. It was there, in 2008, that she met André.
It didn’t take long before they’d fallen in love with each other through their love of food and baking. Meanwhile, André’s boss at Compass who had nurtured his career until now, informed him that she was leaving Compass to work for a smaller company that owned three bakeries in England. She promised him that in six months she would find a place for him at her new company. Only one month later, in January 2010, André received her call, and she convinced him to be the manager of one of the company’s bakeries. With his polished background covering every detail of the restaurant business from supervising to finance, she knew he was perfectly suited to manage a bakery.
When André informed Alvina that he’d been offered the position of bakery manager, Alvina was thrilled. She knew he’d be perfect for the job and it would be the icing on the cake of their relationship. Alvina was in love with baking and in love with André – a perfectly sweet match.
Alvina and André’s boss knew André would be brilliant at managing a bakery, and, as usual, the women were right. Thanks to Alvina’s encouragement and André’s new degree in IT, André not only entered the world of bakery management, but he thrived. He was able to turn around an ailing bakery, which had been suffering with customer service and quality control issues. André had found his home.
For the next year, André learned everything there was to know about the bakery business. At the same time, he and Alvina nurtured their love of baking into a dream of opening their own bakery.
In January 2011, they returned to Brazil to make their dreams come true. André would handle the business side of the management, while Alvina would be in charge of the kitchen and doing all the baking. In November 2011, their dream came to fruition, and they opened the first American-style bakery in Curitiba. They called it Special Treat.
Thanks to the purchase of some essential baking equipment in the US and England like injectors and special knives, their bakery, located in Mercês, serves the finest in American-style baked goods, such as cupcakes and fruit pies. Alvina doesn’t neglect some Brazilian favorites like chocolate cake, but prefers to follow American recipes because it’s her wish to introduce the Brazilian palette to some delicious, sugary treats familiar to Americans like apple pie and pecan pie, which are not usually available in Brazil. Additionally, Alvina is always looking for ways to improve on her excellent baking skills. She welcomes feedback, loves new ideas, and vows to produce new treats every week.
In addition to the cheerful staff at Special Treat, like Pamela, who prepares the excellent Brazilian coffee selection for customers, Alvina uses only the best ingredients in her kitchen. For example, they import fresh vanilla beans from the US and produce their own vanilla extract for many of their recipes. Alvina bakes with butter only, never substituting oil or margarine. In fact, everything is made from scratch, the old-fashioned, homemade way. She avoids all chemicals or anything from a can. And when vanilla is called for in a recipe, they double the amount because they know the purity of their own vanilla will create a new taste sensation.
André, whose father is a chemist, is quick to point out as I tour their kitchen, “Vanilla in Brazil isn’t really made from vanilla beans. It’s extracted from eucalyptus. We wanted to keep everything as pure as possible because it makes a difference in the quality of our desserts. Our vanilla is so pure that Pamela has to shake it twice a day to keep it properly blended. I like to tell her this is her most important job.”
Pamela laughs when she hears André’s description of her job, but I wasn’t laughing when I sampled their pecan pie. In fact, it was so good, I moved down the counter to the cupcakes and cheesecake brownies. Clearly, André and Alvina were a match made in baking heaven.
Special Treat Bakery
Rua Martim Afonso, 851
Mercês – Curitiba – Paraná
Michael Rubin is an American living in Curitiba.