East Grand Forks – Caitlin Olsen taught herself her baking background – but told it with the help of a grandmother. Her work résumé shows that she has learned quite a bit about baking while working.
Olson honed her cooking skills while working at Amazing Grains and later Paola in downtown Grand Forks.
“In both roles, baking was a problem-solving experiment. At home we had to make do with what we had on hand. And in bakeries, we’ve often had a similar problem to popular cooking shows like this: we cook with lemons.” What do you do with that giant box, bunches of thyme, and leftover oatmeal that’s about to be used up? That brought another level of problem solving, like recreating classics with novel ingredients.”
Olson was selected as one of 16 attendees at the inaugural Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald Pie Bake-Off, an event designed to showcase some of the top pie bakers in the Grand Forks area — and their pie keeping. , Olsson said she plans to use vegetarian recipes during the contest, which begins August 22 and runs through September.
Olson, who is sponsored by Grand Forks’ Hope Church, is confident a vegan cake can stand up to a competition that includes traditional cakes baked by many experienced bakers – including some with professional experience.
“Unless you tell someone, they usually don’t know,” she said in an interview with the Herald. “There have been many innovations in the vegetarian baking sector. There’s a community where you can go (recipe and ingredient ideas) and see other people’s experiments and build on them. There is still a lot of room for innovation. It’s fun, but it’s also a gamble, so I’ll stick with what I know.
“I’m pretty sure no one can tell,” she said.
She has competed in food competitions in the past, including a hot dish competition in East Grand Forks. She didn’t win, but the summer veggies, fried polenta and banana, with a herb-spicy tomato sauce placed in the top 3. She entered the competition with little expectation as her “strange entry” – her words – went up versus traditional Minnesota hotdish.
“I think it demonstrates the power of creativity and quality content,” she said. “I’m just interested in different food competitions. I thought (the hotdish contest) was really funny. It was interesting to see what everyone came up with and to get a chance to be creative. And it’s also cool to see people trying things out and giving you feedback.”
In the bio, which she sent to the Herald, she vowed her cakes would not just be “healthy/diet food.”
“I’d love to enter your competition and show me just how far vegetarian food has come over the years,” she said.