Iâ€™m addicted to Gesineâ€™s Confectionary in Montpelier, Vermont. Itâ€™s not just the pastries - the satiny slip of ganache on the tongue or the tangy tropical spark of passion fruit hiding in the center of a lush, velvety cheesecake. Itâ€™s not even that they brew the best lattes in the state, brimming with milky sweetness and redolent with the scent of freshly ground espresso. Nor is it the handpicked selections of gourmet items that fill the shelves, tempting shoppers like brightly wrapped delicious jewels.
The root of my addiction is more to the warmth of the atmosphere that envelops you as you walk in, and the smiles of the employees that greet you when you approach the elegant, but funkily decorated counter. They really seem happy to be there, a less and less common occurrence in the food service industry, Iâ€™m sorry to say. The storefront is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so when I drive by on the way to work on Wednesday mornings, I am relieved to see the open sign in the window once more, and I make a point to get there at least once a day whenever Iâ€™m in Montpelier.
I first went into the shop out of curiosity, as many people did. The P.R. for the storeâ€™s opening day was national — Gesineâ€™s sister, Sandra Bullock was giving out free macaroons — but what I found was that Gesine is as much an artist as her sister, only in a different medium.
First, letâ€™s establish the correct pronunciation of Gesineâ€™s name: itâ€™s German and is pronounced like guezz-eena, with soft zâ€™s. â€śIt rhymes with subpoena,â€ť she offers with a smile. Gesine Bullock-Prado was born in Washington D.C. and spent her early years in Bavaria, the daughter of a German opera singer mother and an American voice teacher father. Baked goods were very much part of the rich culture of her upbringing, and the tradition followed her and her family when they moved back to the States when she was six. â€śI baked for everybody,â€ť she chuckles.
She grew up in Virginia, and ended up attending law school at South Western in Los Angeles, rooming with her sister who was establishing her career as an actress on the west coast. Right after taking the bar, Gesine started a production company with her sister called Fortis Films. As the companyâ€™s CEO, one of Gesineâ€™s acquisitions was the quirky comedy Miss Congeniality.
Needless to say, the company was a success, and though she passed the bar, she never practiced law. As she puts it, running the production company was, â€śA lot more interesting than what I was doing at school,â€ť but after ten years in the movie business, she wanted to try something different. â€śMaking people laugh is very important to me. When my mother was sick, it was the funny stuff that kept her spirits up. I feel good about the work that I did in the industry, but feeding people is also important to me. I find it nurturing.â€ť