Calgary’s very own Butterblock founder, owner, and baker Karen Kong has been passionate about baking for as long as she could remember. If Karen wasn’t baking, she was nonetheless involved with food someway, somehow. Her first job as a cashier at a fast food joint confirmed her interest, as she would make it a point to correct her friends that the food she was serving them were “gourmet sandwiches”, rather than “just a burger”.
To fuel her growing interest in the food scene, Karen completed the Hotel and Restaurant Management diploma at SAIT in Calgary Alberta. This helped reassure Karen’s passion towards baking, which led her to spending another two years at SAIT where she earned her diploma in the Baking and Pastry Arts program. While the programs at SAIT helped set her career path, Karen thought that being a full-time student was not merely enough, so she took on the responsibility of working part time at various restaurants with the goal to accumulate as much hands-on experience as possible. After graduating from SAIT, Karen’s drive to learn did not dwindle, as she had the opportunity to work at some of the top restaurant groups in Calgary. Through these opportunities, she was able to gain invaluable experience in opening three restaurants in Calgary.
The past eight years’ worth of constant 5 A.M. shifts and “everyday hair-bun” has led Karen to where she is today: 4 A.M. shifts (just kidding, sort of!). Today, Karen is just starting to see that her dreams can be achieved. With Butterblock coming to life, this is just a small glimpse of Karen’s vision coming into reality. Butterblock is not only Karen’s very first company, but also a medium where she is able to share her love of baking with the city she loves and has grown to call home, Calgary.
Currently, Karen’s focus is on a modern twist on French pastries, combining the pastries with ingredients that intrigue and inspire her. After the oven is turned off, Karen strives for a healthy work/life balance. To shake off some of the stress that she faces at work, Karen believes a good run after being on her feet for 12 hours helps relax her and creates a clean slate for her brain to jump back into work the next day. The only time that you may be able to catch Karen not on her feet is when she is watching the Food Network (one might argue that this is still considered work). Her only rant towards the Food Network is that it unfortunately paints a negative image to its audience in that the kitchen is nothing but harsh work and stress. While she agrees that the kitchen is demanding, Karen believes that it can also be professional, fun, and very enjoyable.
In the future, Karen strives to bring about different ways for everyone to enjoy pastries. Her creative mind believes that pastries doesn’t have to be your typical morning breakfast with a cup of coffee, but can also be enjoyed during a hike out in the mountains or even as a sandwich at a picnic.