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Paula Luís

Born in Portugal, arrived in Canada in 1989

Paula and her brother in their village near Caldas da Rainha,
a small city about 100 kilometres north of Lisbon.

With his two brothers already in Toronto,
Paula’s father decided to move the family to Canada.

Paula’s second day in Canada
Allan Gardens, Toronto, 1989

"It was okay for a bit… then we started
going to school and that was really bad."

- Paula

Despite her promise as a student in Portugal, Paula struggled
to learn English and catch up academically in Toronto.

She graduated from high school,
but never went on to post-secondary.

Since moving to Toronto, Paula has always
been close with her younger cousin, Nuno.

Having started working in the baking industry as teenagers,
Paula and Nuno purchased Courense Bakery & Pastry in 2009.

Learn more about Paula


These buns called papos secos, literally "dry throats", are a Portuguese standard. The origin of the name is uncertain, but one explanation harkens back to a time when white bread was a luxury unavailable to the poor, whose unsatisfied cravings for the bread would leave them feeling parched.

Courense offers a wide range of bread and pastries, including many
Portuguese specialties like these meringues, or suspiros ("sighs").

Courense is known for the spectacular wedding cakes created by
master pastry chef, Victor Simões, who hails from Aveiro in northern Portugal.

Paula works through a stack of dough for natas, the classic Portuguese custard tart.
Unlike some larger bakeries, all the pastries at Courense are still handmade, often by Paula herself.

Staying afloat is always a challenge with massive utility bills and monthly rent in the five figures. Part of Courense's success lies in the diversity of both its products and clientele.

A self-confessed workaholic, Paula works grueling hours, fulfilling
a wide range of roles depending on the demands of any given day.

Open almost 24/7, Courense has become a neighbourhood institution. The bilingual staff and the welcoming ambience ensure that patrons reflect the diversity of Bloorcourt.

Paula with her sister, Vanessa, who was born after the Luís family arrived in Canada.
Because their mother worked nights, Paula was often responsible for looking after Vanessa.

Paula blows out candles on her 14th birthday, her first in Canada. More than half
of the country's 450,000 Portuguese Canadians live in the Greater Toronto Area.

Paula (left) and her closest friends, a few years before her family left for Canada.

Paula and her mother next to their family's rabbit hutches.
The poorest country in western Europe, Portugal became a
major source of immigrants to Canada starting in the 1950s.