Sweet (and savoury) treats with Bacon and Bonbons
“I love the market. You will see me frolicking through the market. Literally.”
Jeszika Mae is clearly looking forward to market season. In addition to loving the Fireweed Community Market, they also love to feed people. Fortunately with their business, Bacon and Bonbons, they are feeding folks all the time. Sometimes Mae cooks for people in their homes, other times they’re catering to other businesses, such as The Coffee Shop, Java Connection and the Yukon Asian Market. In spring and summer, you’ll find their pop-up at the Fireweed Market in Shipyards Park.
Mae’s penchant for public markets began when they were living in Montreal’s West Island, where their favourite places were the Atwater and John Talon markets. They came north for a summer job six years ago and never left. They currently reside in a cabin and they also live in a yurt in the summer.
“It’s nice in the yurt,” they say. “It’s like living in a seashell. You’ve just got the air and the wind sounds. It’s beautiful.”
Mae’s journey from the Montreal suburbs to yurt life and a culinary business in the Yukon involved a few professional and personal twists and turns along the way. Their interest in cooking began as a teenager when they were asked to replace the cook in the daycare where they and their mom worked. Mae loved preparing food for kids, who were their first critics.
“Kids are such discerning judges of food,” they explain. “If you don’t shape it right or you don’t present it the right way, it doesn’t matter how it tastes, they’re not even looking at it.”
Cooking for kids didn’t set Mae on an immediate path to be a chef. They first aspired to be a lawyer and work in social justice, but were sidetracked by administrative jobs, which they loathed. The decision to pursue what they loved to do led them to the Tourism Institute of Quebec to study the culinary arts. Since then, they’ve worked in a number of settings including restaurants, which offered immediate feedback and appreciation from customers. As a chef, much of Mae’s joy of cooking comes from seeing diners enjoy their meals.
“It’s a shared experience [in a restaurant],” they say. “From my perspective as a chef, watching people enjoy that food is so nice, just to see people get energized from it.”
Mae also believes that enjoying food is more about taste and involves most of the senses, including touch. For example, they highly encourage eating steamed asparagus with one’s fingers.
“To me that’s what it’s about,” they say. “It’s about the different flavours and the textures and it’s a sensory experience as much as it is a social experience. I really like to observe those experiences when people eat.”
Mae currently works from a space in the Marwell industrial area which they share with Alison Pakula from Alligator’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese. In their workspace, Mae has a portable counter which they can roll into their van and take to any location, such as the market.
Mae enjoys the tranquillity they have found in the shared Marwell space. The flow they experience working there is like ballet, they say.
The day I visit, Mae has two types of macarons on the go. There are basil and strawberry versions heading to The Coffee Shop, and ubé and black sesame ones destined for the Yukon Asian Market. The macarons, along with delectables such as baklava and marshmallows, represent the bonbons side of their business slogan: “Bacon and Bonbons – smoked meats and sweet treats.”
While the smoked meats production is currently on the back burner, Mae is still very enthusiastic about bacon.
“I don’t want to say bacon is bae, but I love bacon. Bacon is one of my staples and it’s so good in everything.”
They’ve had bacon produced for them by the Rudge family, who own Tum Tum’s Black Gilt Meats. Mae procured pigs from Mario Ley at Can Do Farm and the Rudges made bacon based on Mae’s recipe. Three weeks later, they had their coffee, whisky and maple bacon.
“They’re such a lovely family, they’re such nice people to do business with,” Mae says of the Rudges, who are their go-to people for meat.
While bacon production is on hold, Mae still has lots to offer at the Fireweed Market. Among their offerings is mac-and-cheese to-go that folks can pre-order and pick up. Mae is also adept at improvisation. In the years before COVID, they arrived at the market with hamburger ingredients as a main dish, and shopped from fellow vendors, such as Elemental Farms, to make up the salads and other sides. However, don’t ask for ketchup for your burger.
“I’m anti-ketchup,” Mae says. “Ketchup is not a food.”
Ketchup aside, Mae sees the market as a community that brings the best out of everyone, including the vendors and the customers who support them.
“I’m not a fan of people but there are some persons I really love and a lot of them seem to congregate at the market,” they say. “The market brings out a part of society that’s not the mainstream, everyday way society runs. Market society is the way I see the world working.”
“The market is where it’s at,” they conclude.
Follow @baconandbonbons on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s cooking, and for info on how to pre-order.