Rita was born in Ethiopia to an Armenian family, the Mekhdjians. From a young age, she had an attraction to the arts. In her teens and 20’s, she spent a lot of time making jewellery boxes out of ostrich eggs in the style of Fabergé.
She moved to Canada, got married and started a family in her mid 20’s. Once her three children became old enough to take care of themselves, she returned her focus to her love of the arts. Someone from a local cake club had heard of the cakes she was making for her children’s birthdays and asked her to join the club as a hobby; she agreed.
She attended the weekly meetings, and slowly but surely, the hobby became something more serious. She heard about ICES, the International Cake Exploration Société, from her meetings, and decided that she would attend the annual convention that year in Baltimore, Maryland. At the convention, she met with decorators from around the world and attended demonstrations and classes that really opened her eyes to the potentials of cake decorating. That was the beginning of her real growth as a sugar artist.
Once she got back to Montreal, a friend of hers from the cake club confronted her with a proposal: she wanted to open a cake store and she wanted Rita to be her partner. After weighing the pros and cons, Rita accepted. That’s when La Gâterie J.R., the now famous Montreal-based sugar artistry shop, was born.
Since 1996, La Gâterie has gone through many changes, and has grown from a small, little-known cake store in the West Island, to an internationally recognized establishment, largely due to the efforts and talent of the now-sole-owner, Rita Djerrahian.
In 2004, Rita represented La Gâterie for the first time at the Salon of Culinary Arts of the Société Culinaire Philanthropique de New York. Every year, she has returned from Manhattan with first and/or second prize medals, and, in 2008, even won the prestigious Medal of the French Government which represents the Grand Prize of the Salon for Pastry Presentation.
Her name has also been in many publications, including the Montreal Gazette, Horizon (a local Armenian newspaper), and the Baker’s Journal, who published, among other articles, one cleverly entitled “Les Gâteaux of La Gâterie: Only imagination is the limit for Montreal-based designer Rita Djerrahian”.
Presently, Rita’s days are filled juggling cake consultations, decorating, and giving baking and decorating classes at local schools and at her store, where she has a classroom dedicated to that purpose. She is a certified Wilton instructor, although her teaching style varies depending on the course being given. She also frequently gets called by the owners of Montreal’s top restaurants to teach their pastry chefs the art of cake decorating, and is also one of the cake decorators in Montreal who offers pastry students the opportunity of doing their internships at her cake shop.
As well, she enjoys giving back to the community by donating specialized cakes for various charity events such as the Table of Hope, the Starlight Foundation’s Strangers In The Night, Ogilvy En Rose, and the Montreal Children’s Hospital ABC Ball.