By: Rebecca Feigelsohn
Liam DeSouza’s ambition, work ethic and determination have allowed him to overcome various hurdles in order to climb his way from baking cakes at home with his mother in Kenya, to becoming the executive pastry chef at MoRoCo Chocolat in Toronto. For DeSouza, growing up in Kenya as a young boy who knew his talents lay in cake decorating was not easy. However, his dedication and enthusiasm, along with encouragement from his mother, helped him succeed in a field where he felt little respect was given to male pastry chefs.
At the age of 21, DeSouza moved to Canada after studying Bakery Arts at Utalii College and having worked as an apprentice at the Grand Regency Hotel, training under a Swiss Chocolatier. DeSouza’s parents had always dreamed of moving to Canada, and his mother always had a great love for the country, one that was further enhanced when her son was born on Canada’s birthday. DeSouza’s relocation to the Great White North was fuelled by his desire to learn and refine his skills, and whilst in Toronto he studied at McCall’s School of Cake Decorating, Liaison College, and George Brown College. Though he is finished with school for the time being, DeSouza asserts “education never finishes, you always [continue to] learn,” and he passes this philosophy to his pastry chefs at MoRoCo, who he encourages to grow from one another and to conduct their own research online after hours.
Although his formal title at MoRoCo is executive pastry chef, where he oversees the chocolate lab, the pastry department, and the macaron department, DeSouza also acts as an educator and inspires the other chefs he supervises. Besides the early encouragement from his mother, DeSouza feels he has never had a true mentor to guide him through the industry, one of the reasons he hopes to act as a leader whom others can look up to and seek advice from. Despite this lack of guidance, his innate talent, persistence, and comprehensive pastry experience, mostly from the wedding cake and chocolate shop, Simply Chocolate, led him to his dream job at MoRoCo more than one year ago. He believes MoRoCo is the perfect place for him, being both a restaurant that serves creative desserts, as well as a retail shop that sells handcrafted chocolate truffles, imaginatively flavoured French macaron, and other unique treats, like their homemade marshmallows and s’mores-to-go.
The lavishly decorated restaurant and shop, which aesthetically fuses influences from Alice and Wonderland and Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, is owned by Kelly Kimel, who challenges DeSouza, requiring him to push the boundaries of his creations, as well as manage his time effectively between all three of the dessert departments. DeSouza maintains that it is his go-getting personality, along with the assistance of his pastry staff, which ensures that the kitchen runs smoothly, “I can take care of them and they take care of me,” he says. Though the enthusiastic pastry chef cannot exactly pinpoint a favourite dessert or his signature dish, he is particularly proud of his self-taught macaron skills and his pastry team’s ability to cut their chocolate molten cinnamon cake time from twenty minutes, to five.
DeSouza has fostered a collaborative kitchen environment, one where the other pastry chefs are given the opportunity to experiment, practice trial and error, and gain confidence when the desserts are well received. He feels these are essential skills to succeed in the business and notes, “It’s not just about wanting to be a pastry chef…it’s knowing not to give up.”
MoRoCo Chocolat is located at 99 Yorkville Avenue, morocochocolat.com
Rebecca Feigelsohn is a Toronto based editorial intern for Good Food Revolution. She recently completed her BA in English at McGill University and loves all things sweet. Follow her as she profiles Toronto pastry chefs @GoodFoodRevInt