Alina Fintineanu: Bake It Till You Make It
This chess-playing champ with a sweet tooth emigrated from Romania with her family when she was just 10 years old. She grew up to open her own successful orthodontic consulting business. But now, after competing in The Great Canadian Baking Show, Season 5, Alina Fintineanu (a.k.a. the rogue Tooth Fairy) wants to see just how high her passion for baking can rise. What’s cooking? For starters, her own recipe column with a national newspaper — and hopefully her own show on the Food Network for her long game.
Who knows where passion comes from? For Alina Fintineanu, perhaps it comes from a happy place, when she was growing up in Romania. She was a kid, so she didn’t know much about the economy and fi nance and other issues, but school was great, and she had lots of friends. Her parents got her into playing chess when she was just four years old, and she really leaned into it, becoming a national champion just a few years later. She also just liked hanging around the kitchen with her mom. “My mom wasn’t a huge baker. She was a lot better at cooking,” she says. “Mostly I’d be licking the beaters, but she’d let me follow her around and see what she was doing.” Eventually, she started making little tarts, fruitcakes and meringues.
When Fintineanu was 10, her parents decided to move to Canada for a better life. “I thank my parents because I had a lot more opportunity in Canada, with things that I would never have had the chance to do in Romania,” says Fintineanu. Perhaps she may not have had a chance to open Risorius, her orthodontic consulting practice. Wait, what?! That’s right, she’s a registered dental hygienist and a certified training practitioner with an adult education background. As a child with overcrowded teeth, Fintineanu didn’t have a great smile. But, when her parents took her to an orthodontist when she was 16, it was a game changer. “Getting braces was the worst thing that ever happened to me at that age,” she says. “But as soon as I started my straightening it was like night and day. My confidence level just skyrocketed.” It was so life-changing she wanted to help others feel just as good.
But Fintineanu’s little inner child still loves sweets. And, in fact, about five years ago she started baking again to relieve stress. When she started streaming cooking shows, she came across The Great Canadian Baking Show, and she thought she’d apply to get onto Season 4. She didn’t make it, but she doubled down and started honing her skills, baking bread, croissants and tarts. When she applied for Season 5, she was chosen as one of the bakers. “I learned a lot about myself on the show, about doing things that I didn’t think that I could do,” she says. She credits her experience with building her confidence and learning how, as a perfectionist, to be OK with her choices. And she’s also learned to give everything she bakes away. “The trick is to give everything away quickly, so that if they’re not around me, I don’t have a chance to eat them,” she says. She does have a favourite dessert, though, fancy enough to live up to @luxe.baker: French entremets, which are small cakes composed of different layers of cake and pastry cream enrobed with a glaze and served cold. “It’s just so many layers of deliciousness and such beautiful flavours that work together,” she adds.
Still, we had to ask Fintineanu: what is the common thread that links chess, baking and orthodontics? “When it comes to chess, you need to think eight moves ahead … same with baking, you have to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. It’s very precise,” she says. “When it comes to orthodontics, perfection really is the name of the game … typically, in clinical practice, I do things like put braces on, which are things of a very meticulous nature.” It’s the necessary perfection that really suits her personality, she adds.
On the show, they called her “the rogue Tooth Fairy.” But now Fintineanu is separating her two passions. The show itself has opened doors for her, and she wants to see where her passion for baking can take her, so she’s taking a break from her clinical practice right now. She’s off to a good start — she’s just landed a deal with Postmedia Network for her own recipe column, Baking with Alina, which will appear in their publications beginning later this fall. As for her long game, though, she’d love to be on the Food Network.
Fintineanu is in a happy place now, grateful for everything that’s happened and for all the support she’s received along the way. “I was very fortunate to be on the show,” she says. “And I had a partner who was supportive — Michal is just the most wonderful human being.” Actually, they’re tying the knot — but she won’t be baking her own cake. “I would be so stressed. Anybody who does that for their wedding … hats off to them!”
INTERVIEW BY ESTELLE ZENTIL