Catherine O’Donnell’s love affair with the pastry arts began at the age of 14, when she visited Toronto’s King Edward Hotel for afternoon tea with her grandmother. She became enchanted by the artistic presentation, taste and sense of occasion provided by the wonderful pastries she sampled. Little did she know that at age 30 she would return to this landmark property as pastry chef, where she stayed for two and a half years.
Following that fateful first visit, O’Donnell baked pies at Chudleigh’s Apple Farm in Milton, Ontario as a high school student. Catherine then went on to graduate from the Pastry Arts Program at George Brown College and studied at the Callebaut Chocolate Institute in Belgium. She has since held positions as Pastry Chef at Toronto’s Oliver-Bonacini Group, the King Edward Hotel, Vintage Inns, Hillebrand’s Vineyard Café, and Peller Estates Winery Restaurant.
During the course of her career, Catherine has become known as one of Niagara’s culinary stars. She continues to build on her reputation with her own enterprise, Willow Cakes and Pastries which offers a comfortable, relaxed café style environment. The bakery and café has become a Niagara on the Lake institution celebrating 5 successful years in the summer of 2009. She is well known for creating exquisite wedding cakes, providing delicious desserts to the area’s finest restaurants, and offering her retail customer’s a vast selection of unique breads and delectable cakes and pastries.
At the Niagara on the Lake Culinary School, students pursue their Pastry diploma education with Catherine acting as the Pastry Chef Professor and offering the program in her kitchen facility.
Catherine has a strong commitment to her community and this is evident by her heavy involvement in many local events as well as support of various charitable organizations. Her participation in events such as The Annual Rotary House Tour, Passions Wine Culture & Arts Event, The Niagara Wine Weekend & Auction and The Shaw Chivalry are just to name a few. She has proudly donated the Canada Day Cake for the Town of Niagara on the Lake’s July 1st celebrations for the past 5 consecutive years. Catherine’s continuous commitment to charities in need is an example of her unconditional generosity. A charity of particular interest to Catherine is the Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada Foundation supporting cancer patients and their families.