roselle desserts stephanie bruce

The love story behind the Roselle desserts duo and how they’re tackling tough times

From pastries in Paris to pop-ups in a pandemic

One of Toronto’s favourite bakeries, Roselle Desserts, is run by Stephanie Duong and Bruce Lee. Although the shop is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 health crisis, they will be running a pop-up shop just in time for Mother’s Day.

Orders can be placed starting Monday, May 4 at 11 a.m. on their website and pick-ups will take place on Saturday, May 9 at the Queen West location (108 Dovercourt Rd.). The Mother’s Day menu includes a limited selection of cakes, Roselle’s signature cake cups, frozen cookie dough and confections. For more information on this pop-up and their other bi-weekly pop-ups scheduled until the end of June, click here.

How they met

Stephanie: We met on a school trip to France in 2011. Bruce and I went with a group of 18 other pastry students from George Brown College to study pastry at the National Pastry School in France for two weeks. We were the only two who stayed in France for 12 months afterward to live and work in restaurants there.

The first date

Stephanie: Our first meal as a couple was at a really hot restaurant in Paris called Agape Substance where a young chef with an amazing pedigree named David Toutain was cooking. Bruce was trying to impress me by ordering the tasting menu for lunch at $130 per person. I don’t remember many of the dishes, but I do remember leaving the lunch thinking that we shared a lot of the same passions for food, travel and adventure. He also made me laugh a lot.

Bruce: No, I wasn’t trying to impress you. That’s why we split the bill!

The courtship

Stephanie: Our courtship was a long-drawn-out romance. We started dating in Paris in 2011, came back to Canada briefly and left again to live and work in Hong Kong. We came back and opened our business Roselle Desserts in 2015.

The proposal

Stephanie: After a year spent living in Hong Kong in 2013, we returned to Paris for a three-week vacation. After a fancy dinner at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon on the Champs-Élysées, we took a metro ride to Trocadero, the elevated square that overlooks the Eiffel Tower. That is the spot where we first took photos as a couple in 2011. Bruce nervously got down on one knee, and as the Eiffel Tower’s lights glimmered in the distance, he opened a ring box with a single LED light mounted inside that shone on my engagement ring. It was a really lovely moment where things felt like they came full circle.

The wedding

Stephanie: We were engaged for five years. We had a very long engagement because we didn’t have the time to plan a proper wedding. We were really busy with Roselle from 2015 to 2017, learning the ropes of owning a business and trying to make it work. We finally saved up some money and had some time to get married in 2018. We had an outdoor wedding in August 2018 with 120 guests on a farm outside of Oshawa. It was an all-day affair that was catered by our friends, who cooked a whole pig, a giant rib roast, chickens, ducks and vegetables over a giant outdoor fire. We made the desserts! There was also a bouncy castle — more for us than the kids.

Balancing careers and marriage

Stephanie: It’s very hard. Running a business is all-consuming in its own right, but doing it with your spouse is really something else. It’s hard not to take our work home with us, but we always try to remind ourselves that our marriage comes first. We do have a lot of fun with our business, and we’ve been very fortunate with our journey so far. I think being able to successfully balance career and marriage comes down to communication and respect.

Secret of success

Stephanie: A lot of patience, love and understanding. And humour. Marriage can be full of surprises, both good and bad. We’ve had a very difficult year in 2020, but we think that the hardship has reaffirmed our love and commitment to each other. We enjoy the good times, but the bad times are when you realize the depth of the love you have for each other.

Article exclusive to TRNTO