From civil engineer to pastry chef: Lora Vennettilli Gookin switches careers and builds a successful bakery business — with plans to grow



A former civil engineer, Lora Vennettilli Gookin turned a hobby into an entrepreneurship when she started making cakes. It all started with her daughter’s first birthday cake. 

Even then, baking was still simply a hobby. Eventually, Lora’s hobby brought her to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Arizona.  She then opened her business, Gâteau, in Arizona in 2008 and has been operating in Virginia since 2011. To date, Lora has created over 900 cakes, and is excited to open a bakery/café in Warrenton, Virginia later this summer.

Her cakes are all made bake-to-order from scratch, without shortening, using aluminum-free leaveners, organic ingredients and unbleached and unbromated flour.


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Why do you love your job?

I love my job because I get to be creative with cake design, scientific with the recipes, and social dealing with my clients.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An architect.

What is the most life-changing experience you’ve ever had?

Having children.

What is your favorite thing about Airlie?

Everything; the staff is professional and friendly, the grounds are impeccable and gorgeous, the food is exceptional.

How would your friends describe you?


Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Dog person.

Are you a sports fan?


What was your most memorable vacation?

Cancun, July 2014.

If money were not a consideration, where would you go on vacation?


What would your ideal cake look like?

Buttercream texture with fresh flowers.

What is your favorite food?


If you had a super power, what would it be?

Be able to fly.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Good is the enemy of great.”

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?

The Nightmare Before Christmas

To which product or service are you most loyal?


What would you do if you won $1 million in the lottery?

Pay off the bakery and travel.


Photo credit: Ciao Bella Celebrations

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Natalie Glenn

Written by Natalie Glenn

Natalie Glenn is this summer’s Sales and Marketing intern. As a Junior at Virginia Tech, Natalie is studying Public Relations and the beauty of Blacksburg. Natalie has lived in Warrenton for most of her short life, and enjoys exploring the great outdoors or playing with dogs when she’s not working hard at Airlie.


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