Said M’Dahoma | Calgary’s Food & Hospitality Game-Changers 2024

The neuroscientist-turned-pastry chef is making the fine art of French baking more approachable with online instruction.

Photo by Jared Sych.

When Said M’Dahoma moved to Calgary from France in 2015, it was not as a pastry chef, but as a neuroscientist to take a postdoc research gig at the University of Calgary. As M’Dahoma dug into his work there, he experienced a very specific kind of homesickness — a yearning for the plethora of French pastries he took for granted while living in Paris. Unable to find the selection he sought in local pastry shops at the time, M’Dahoma did what any good academic would do: he hit the books and taught himself how to make croissants, macarons, mousse cakes and other sweet delights.

Any amateur baker who has tried to make a croissant knows it isn’t easy, but M’Dahoma was determined to perfect his craft. “Baking is a challenge, and yet the resilience I acquired during my PhD helps me to do very difficult things and not give up when it gets harder,” he says.

Eventually, M’Dahoma realized he loved baking more than he liked neuroscience. Set on turning baking into a career, he started experimenting with social media and, in early 2021, tried selling his wares through a pop-up to determine if opening a bakeshop might be in his future. Realizing immediately that bulk baking was not his life’s dream, M’Dahoma decided to combine his love of knowledge and teaching with his new passion for baking. He took some classes to brush up his photography skills and started posting instructional videos on social media, christening himself “Said the Pastry Nerd.”

M’Dahoma’s straightforward videos, cool and 
collected teaching style and common-sense tips have been a hit, earning him more than 140,000 Instagram followers, many located outside of Calgary and even Canada. He’s no longer working in science and has made pastry education his full-time job.

Budding home-bakers can use one of M’Dahoma’s free e-books and recipes, or pay for one of his online video masterclasses or live video classes, all available through thepastrynerd.com. The aim is to remove the intimidation factor from French baking and give his followers the satisfaction of making delicious things from scratch.

“For me, there’s nothing more fulfilling than to teach a recipe and see someone else making a cake and sharing it with their friends or family,” M’Dahoma says. “I love empowering people to do things on their own.”

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This article appears in the March 2024 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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