Jackie Kai Ellis comes from a extensive and successful background as a designer, specializing in branding, at her own design firm. After devoting ten years to this field, she uprooted her life, entirely, on a mission to experience as many of her life goals as possible, and even accomplishing her dream of studying pastry in the heart of France. Returning from her adventures abroad, Ellis opened her own bakery, Beaucoup Bakery, in Vancouver, where she was able to continue her passion of baking and bringing a little piece of Paris back home. This career chameleon is just getting started, however she eagerly anticipates her next transformation.
What is your upcoming book about?
It’s basically a food memoir, a collection of short stories, inspired by MFK Fisher. They’re autobiographical stories, all woven together, with food. They’re mostly about what makes food so important to me, childhood things, as well as, my experiences going from design to travelling to Paris and studying pastry and then coming back and opening Beaucoup. It’ll be pretty intimate.
What else are you working on right now?
One of my other projects is a tour company that I’ve started called, The Paris Tours (www.theparistours.com). I get to inspire people to live their fullest and to take a moment out of their lives to just enjoy pastry. I’ve started travelling quite a bit and doing more travel writing, as well. In the beginning, people were asking me to write about myself and my story and then, eventually, editors would read that and realize that I really had something. That really snow-balled and now I write for a bunch of different publications, across Canada and a little bit in the States as well, mostly, about food, travel and a bit of lifestyle in general, such as fashion and adventure.
Throughout your work, you’ve gained much of your success from your overall mastery of multimedia resources. What importance does having a versatile understanding and ability to use media have, in our current industry?
It’s funny, because I never set out to make it a goal to be a “multimedia” personality, brand, or anything, but I think it’s just very intrinsic to who I am. I’ve been a brand person since the day I was born, but I’m also a very naturally creative and curious person and I never like doing the same thing twice. When someone asks me what I want to do next, I’m just going to try something else, whatever fancies me; I just think to myself, I might as well try. I think that’s how I ended up pursuing all of these different things that I’m very passionate about. What’s interesting is, what creates the thread that binds them all together. That’s where the brand comes in and, for me, it’s really just me, who I am, and what I love. There isn't a disconnect or any in-congruency between all of these things, because it’s all stuff that I’m truly passionate about. I think this approach can help members of the food industry because it’s what helps us to connect. If we look at our industry, internally, between chefs, as well as how we connect with consumers, the connection comes from people being able to see someone like me, who used to be a consumer, become apart of that interior of the food industry. I can create this bridge between the two spectrums, which helps the industry become more relatable and of interest to consumers. People become more motivated to involve themselves, and I think it’s been sort of a nice way to open up the industry, so that people don’t feel like there are so many barriers.
It’s quite remarkable how willing you are to dive head-first into practically anything, across such a wide spectrum of fields. This versatility is certainly no easy skill, and is not one that goes unrecognized in your work.
You were recently named, Emerging Culinary Artist of the Year, how does receiving a title like this feel?
I was so honoured to be given that nomination and to know that the culinary artist of the year, Eric Patmen, (owner of Edible Canada in Vancouver), who made the nomination, would even think of me that way. I’ve been cooking a lot for the past decade, but it’s still really new to me, so to be identified as a culinary artist is still so strange to me. In the beginning, I’d always tell my staff to not call me chef, because I’m not a chef and I know what it takes to become a chef. In France, for example -- I would be considered an apprentice. Now, I’ve just come to accept whatever titles people give me because, otherwise, it gets super complicated and confusing for people and for myself, as well. I guess, I get a bit embarrassed or even shy about it.
What do you see yourself doing next?
I think I see another turn in my career. This book is going to be such a baring of my story that in becoming so vulnerable to the world, it’s going to be really difficult, but will also bring things to a point where it actually makes more sense for me to give other people the inspiration to do the same. I want to inspire people to honour the state that they’re in and to be less judgemental of themselves, and of others. My dream is to have this book really affect people and I communicate all of these ideas through food, because it’s the universal language.
Even in your own career, food has been, in some ways, the common thread throughout it all.
Food is really the one thing that is a common experience with everyone -- we all have to eat. Everyone celebrates with food, mourns with food, has some issues with food; we all deal with it and it brings out a lot of different stories in life. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do a lot more speaking in the future about things like this, but what I’m really hoping for is to take it to the next level in trying to connect people with their own stories.