T-Lawrence Simmons: Brookline alum takes on The Food Network


The Food Network

Simmons on The Food Network’s Great Chocolate Showdown.

With a pinch of chocolate and a cup of baking magic, professional baker, Great Chocolate Showdown Finalist and 2007 Brookline High School graduate T-Lawrence Simon creates a variety of different sweets for everyone to enjoy at his chocolatier, Cirque Du Souffle.

Cirque Du Souffle is a custom baking company in Massachusetts. Simon’s work changes throughout the seasons; during the colder months Simon focuses on collections of bon bons and chocolate bars and in the warmer ones, he shifts to center around custom cakes.

Simon’s path into baking did not start until later in life. Simon says that his first attempt was in 2018, after spending a summer watching the “Great British Baking Show.” He wanted to surprise his best friend, whom he was living with at the time, when they returned from vacation. What better than a chocolate cake to say: ‘Welcome back!’?

“It was a total failure. And pretty much anytime I’ve ever royally failed at something in life, I have needed to figure out exactly how to do it much better. So that started it all,” Simon said.

Simon’s dad, a physicist, also contributed to Simon’s baking career. Simon took interest in his dad’s work ethic and applied it to his work. He was interested in finding out the mechanics and chemistry behind his baking rather than just reading the instructions.

“What’s sugar doing? Why are you creaming the butter? Why do you add liquid? I took a step back and just did as much food science research as I could,” Simon said.

About a year after Simon started baking, a casting agent from Food Network Canada contacted him to invite him to participate in “The Great Chocolate Showdown.” Before participating on the show, they called him asking about his baking abilities.

“They asked, ‘Have you ever tempered chocolate before?’ I didn’t actually know what that meant, but I said yes, and in preparation for the show, I began to practice, which kind of really launched my chocolate life,” Simon said.

Simon said that he learned many valuable techniques, like how to work more efficiently, from being on “The Great Chocolate Showdown.”

“I think that one of the best instructions I ever got is ‘a clean bench is a clean mind.’ Especially on the show,” Simon said.

When on the show, Simon met Chocolatier Rachel McKinley, who is now one of his mentors and valued companions.

“We became really, really good friends, and she’s fantastic. She took me under her wing, helped me out a lot with day to day thoughts on all things chocolate,” Simon said.

McKinely has been working at Canada’s largest chocolate company and teaching a chocolate course for the past fourteen years at an online school. Simon attended the course and then later went on to assistant teach there.

“Last year, I was looking for someone to help me as my teaching assistant in that course. I hired T-Lawrence to do that. Pretty much every day we talk a little bit about our students and how we can support them,” McKinely said.

Simon said that he loves his work and believes that creativity and joy are the most important aspects of being a baker.

“No project is worth working on if it is overwhelming or stressing you out, because if you’re not finding joy while making it, you’re not going to bring that joy to others when they experience it,” Simon said.