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November 30, 2015

Faces of Fauquier: Civil engineer to bakery owner

Photo/Cassandra Brown
“We joke I traded in my 50-hour a week job for 80 hours a week,” Lora Gookin says.
We assemble these (cakes) in 24 hours, not a week ahead . . . .There is an exorbitant amount of work that goes into this.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Hours of planning, designing and baking go into her decorative, detailed cakes.

Lora Gookin, owner of Gâteau (French for cake), specializes in custom cakes and desserts for weddings and other special occasions.

For almost five years, Ms. Gookin has developed recipes, created designs, baked and decorated cakes.

One of her slogans explains her passion: “Cake is so much more than a mixture of flour, butter, eggs and sugar. It is the marriage of high quality ingredients, the science of baking, thoughtful design and artistic execution. Cake is love.”

She uses high-quality organic ingredients, with no shortenings, preservatives or aluminum.

“How I am in my personal life, how I feed my family, that’s what I bring to my business,” she said. “That’s very important to me.”

Baked from scratch, the cakes take a minimum of four hours to complete.

“We assemble these (cakes) in 24 hours, not a week ahead,” Ms. Gookin said. “I think people don’t realize how much work it takes. There is an exorbitant amount of work that goes into this.”

She also has three full-time employees.

“We have done up to nine weddings in one weekend,” she said.

Ms. Gookin’s passion started as a hobby and turned into a business after she took a nine-month specialized course in baking and pastry arts from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Her previous job as a civil engineer ties in with her business through the construction, design and delivery of her cakes.

She runs Gâteau from her home near Vint Hill in a state-of-the-art kitchen, complete with a convection oven, mixers and more than 11 linear feet of countertop.

“I’m licensed, inspected and insured just like any other bakery,” she said.

Customers come by appointment to taste-test and discuss designs for detailed wedding cakes.

“I can spend a lot of time with customers one-on-one,” she said. “The reward is the reaction and the feedback.”

Catherine Slacum recently ordered her wedding cake from Gâteau.

“The quality of work that Lora does, all of the pictures and the samples she had were amazing,” Ms. Slacum said. “Her attention to detail was incredible.

“The entire process of working with Lora was so seamless and enjoyable. Lora made the process so simple, I felt like she knew our vision for the day without us having to explain it.”

Cakes start at $85 for non-custom and $250 for custom creations.

Gâteau also sells cookies, macrons, cheesecake and more.

• Age
47

• Home
Vint Hill

• Work
Owner of Gâteau, LLC, for almost five years. The bakery creates cakes, cupcakes, cookies, macarons and other desserts from scratch for weddings and special occasions. Previously worked as a civil engineer in Nevada and Arizona for six years.

• Why do you do the job?
We joke I traded in my 50-hour a week job for 80 hours a week. Here I can control my hours.

I wish people didn’t go to the grocery store and buy those Smurf blue cakes. It’s really important to me that we spread (awareness). I think I would take sugar over aspartame any day.

• Family
Husband, Scott; children, Olivia and Vincent.

• Education
Certificate in bakery and pastry arts from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Ariz., 2009. Bachelor’s degree, civil engineering, University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, 1995.

• Civic and/or church involvement
Member of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Warrenton.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
Since 2010.

• Why do you live here?
We moved here from Arizona, because the economy was bad and my husband got a job in Warrenton as a civil engineer. I couldn’t have handpicked it better.
I moved from Toronto to Las Vegas to Phoenix . . . to Fauquier. This is what’s been calling me my whole life. It brought out the country girl in me that I never knew was there.

• How do you describe this county?
I would describe it as the little big town. It has that country feel, rural, but we have all the amenities. We don’t have to drive far.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
I just wish Fauquier could keep the charm it has forever.

• What do you do for fun?
I love to sew. I love yoga . . . arts and crafts. Recipe development — that’s the scientist in me.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
I walk the Warrenton Greenway with my friend. It’s beautiful.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
A lot more populated, but in 10 years it will still have the country feel.

• Favorite TV show?
“Grimm”

• Favorite movie?
“Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas”

• Favorite book?
“The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber.

• Favorite vacation spot?
Chincoteague Island

• Favorite food?
I love roasted red peppers.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
“Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully,” from the author “Zig” Ziglar.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My hero is my grandfather, Onorio Vennettilli, who moved his impoverished young family from Italy to France, Brazil and then Toronto, Canada, to build a better life for them. He was a hard-working man with strong family values.

• What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery?
Pay off debt. Definitely build a bakery. Donate money to charities — food banks and shelters. I think they are basic human needs, food and shelter.


Suggest a profile candidate

Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Editor Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Previous Faces of Fauquier:

• Remington Baptist Pastor David Blevins devotes himself to helping others.

• Civics a passion for Fauquier election poll worker Ben McCartney.

• Philip Mulford makes a career of the search for middle ground.


• “Midland to the bone,” says native Matthew Smith.

• Sherrie Carter’s creativity becomes her business.

• Starting her career, Liberty graduate Judy Heflin wants to be a great teacher.

• Social Services Director Jan Selbo has devoted her career to helping others.

• Jim Cirillo’s call to Casanova extended.


• Don’t tell Angela Deal, Ms. Wheelchair Fauquier, that she can’t do something.

• FHS graduate and business owner Cathy Dodson finds all she needs right here.

• Mike Harvey’s sweet work takes lots of sweat.

• Warrenton native Joan Williams still serving her community.

• Classic cars consume engineer Matt Innocenzi’s free time.

• Wood transformed in the hands of Edward Fox.

• Earl Arrington serves printing customers and his community.

• Michael Hughes wears music, threater and equestrian hats.

• Store in Goldvein part of Susan Leopold’s family legacy.

• County native Maggi MacQuilliam devoted to the great outdoors.

• Health care for the needy Rob Marino’s mission.

• Daphne Latimore focuses on human capital.

• Horses extend Louise Summers’ work as teacher.

• As volunteer coach, Jeff Budd develops young wrestlers.


• Fraces Allshouse’s jobs focus on preservation.

• Jessica Smolinski’s book introduces children to Old Town Warrenton.

• Margaret Rice’s job all about fitness and fun in Warrenton.


• Robert Sturgeon has built his 70-employee businesses in Bealeton from scratch.

• 4-H leader Zach Woodward relishes the lessons of farming.

• Hospital auxiliary volunteer Alison Lee also earned fame in drag racing circles.

• Highland School veteran staff member Lise Hicklin always wanted to teach.


• As 9-1-1 dispatcher, Kateland Rich works to maintain calm during crisis.

• Chaplain Liz Danielsen finds a giving community.


• 9-1-1 response in Rodney Woodward’s bloodline.

• Fast talk a tool of the trade for auctioneer Kathy Shumate.

• Sam Poles takes care of varmits.

• Diane King mentors student performers at Fresta Valley Christian School.


• Lewis F. Lee Jr. followed his father into taxidermy business.

• Edward Payne returns to Orlean and to photography with passion.

• Janet Metzger’s Old Town Warrenton shop a hub of creativity.

• Pablo Teodoro bakes to build community.

• Community trails have become passion for retired VDOT engineer Bob Moore.


• Teresa Reynolds makes transition from butcher to museum director.

• After working in New York and Italy, Christine Fox moved home to open fashion boutique 25 years ago.

• Steve Lewis develops hunting reality show on Dish Network.

• Julia Trumbo grew up in the family grocery business.

• Tax preparer Renée Turner enjoys owning a business in Old Town Warrenton.

• ICU staff Carol Jones values patients’ trust.


• Wilson Sanabria grew up working in his family’s Warrenton restaurant and learning to box.

• One-man band Peter Fakoury quit 9-to-5 to learn from children.

• Liberty graduate Brittany Aubrey works in the smile business.

• Walmart cashier Lulu Baer loves to play violin and several community roles.

• In Sandra Alm, SPCA dogs have a loyal companion.

• St. James’ Episcopal new Rector Ben Maas appreciates community’s embrace

• Bicycles dominate work and play for Brian Larson.

• Teaching music therapy combines Abigail Newman’s passions.

• Brenda Rich leads volunteers who organize and run the Fauquier County Fair.

• 1st Sgt. Greg Harris stresses empathy in his job as a supervisor at the county detention center.


• Chuck Tippett challenges the “rich guy” stereotype about pilots.


• County government employee Surja Tamang previously worked as a Mt. Everest sherpa.

• Woody Isaac found his calling as a chef at age 16.

• Horses take Tommy Lee Jones all over the county.


• Retired nurse Angela Neal continues to volunteer in hospital ER.

• Gilmer Lee really knows high school sports in Fauquier.

• Stage remains central to Tim Bambara’s life journey.

• Bus driver Melissa Strain’s weekend job all about “fun.”


• Bartender Taylor Edgar has a pretty good standup routine.

• A nomad childhood led Paul Schmeling to start a moving company.


• Adam Lynch’s family owns café with local food focus and a special name.

• Patricia McMahon Rice turns passion for art into her livelihood.

• Cindy D’Ambro works as “director of first impressions” at LFCC.

• Ginger Hilleary leads local literacy organization.

• Farmers with groundhog problems call Rod Kirkpatrick.


• Horses “retire” to work with Jeanne Blackwell.

• Remington cattle farmer Doug Linton loves his home and work.

• Sports central to Robert Glascock’s life’s work.

• For Richard Mast, company ownership started with his summer work as a teenager.

• Bernice Simpson knows northern Fauquier back roads and the people who live along them.

• Eddie Payne has logged 38 years as a volunteer firefighter in Marshall.


• Stephanie Layton turns her lifelong passion for dance into her livelihood.


• Shawn LaRue matches children and adoptive families.


• Biker and psychology major Clif Stroud makes music in a big way.

• Becky Crouch greets lots of visitors.

• She helped blaze trail to equality for black teachers.


• Family and food come first for Marshall pizzeria employee.

• Rural “closeness” of Fauquier appeals to Kansas native

• A “spoke” in the wheel of preservation.

• His job dovetails with passion for hunting

• Veteran educator sees the potential in every child.

• His passions: Fixing cars and helping people


• Habitat ReStore volunteer appreciates Fauquier’s diversity.


• Dad’s example led to new career at Fauquier Hospital.

• He lives and works in a beautiful place.

• The Goldvein firehouse ranks as his favorite place.


• Pretty things everywhere she looks.

• Through scouting, he encourages girls to explore.

• One day, he might run the company.


• FISH volunteer likes to help others.

• She sees the community’s generosity.

• Cop patrols while most people sleep.


• Pastor a constant in Calverton.


• She keeps the courthouse spotless.


• He loves working working outdoors at the park.


• She sees “everyone” at Carousel

• Library assistant works in a “fun place"

• Hat lady sets up shop in Old Town Warrenton



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