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At Saul Good, every day we make friends with supremely talented and passionate people who create the most delectable delicacies and confections in Canada. We’ve asked them to share their inspiring stories with us.

Today we’re talking to Thomas Haas, owner of Thomas Haas.

A fourth-generation pâtissier, Thomas Haas was first introduced to the delicate art of hand-crafting chocolates and pastries in the kitchen of Cafe Konditorei Haas, opened by his great-grandfather in Germany in 1918. Thomas has apprenticed and worked with top chefs in Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe en route to earning his stripes as Konditor Meister, or Master Pastry Chef. He has twice placed in the top-three in the annual North American Pastry Chef of the Year competition and was recognized as the Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America. While Thomas is a world away from his roots in the Haas family cafe, the values on which he was raised remain ever true in his Vancouver-based business: a commitment to excellence driven by a genuine passion for food, his co-workers, and the people he serves.

Why did you start your company?

That is a long story. The short version is that we snowballed into it. I worked in New York as the executive pastry chef for Daniel Boulud at his three star Michelin restaurant. When we decided to move back to Vancouver I worked as a consultant for a couple high end hotels and saw there was a need for high quality chocolate in town.

For the first three months we ran our business out of our basement and it quickly morphed into this word-of-mouth-success across the continent. By our fourth year we were making 25,000 chocolates per week and supplying some of the best hotels in North America - even the White House in Washington D.C ( and, no, we would never make chocolates for Trump!). During that big growth phase the production for all the chocolates was done from 8PM to 2AM, we burned the midnight oil.


What inspires your work?

Work inspires work and I pull my inspiration from within. I get inspired by working with my team and sometimes by the feedback of what our customers like.

What sets you apart from similar companies?

We were a pioneer. We plowed the path in 2000s with a concept that Vancouver hadn’t seen before.

Today our aim is to continually improve. We want the business to be better, not bigger. We make sure our business and products stay innovative and fresh. We continue to work very hard to deliver the full deal.

Our assortment of products is vast: 15 different cakes daily, 30 different chocolates, 15 different croissants, 25 assorted bars and confections, handmade chocolate hostess gifts and centerpieces, wedding cakes, plated dessert functions, and two cafés that offer take-out or sit-in that includes a savory menu and artisanal coffee drinks. And, we consistently give back to local communities that we do business in.

What values drive you?

It all starts with treating people with honesty, integrity and consistency. Good people are the bones of a good business.

What are you most proud of?
My family. My two kids and my wife, Lisa, who has stuck by my side for the past 20 years. At work I am most proud of all the effort our team continues to do to evolve, create, and build good culture.

What are people most surprised about when you tell them about your company?
There are 40 people behind the scenes creating, producing and hand making all of our products.

Where do you get inspiration for new products?

Sometimes the season inspires me, sometimes it is new ingredients, or sometimes it when we challenge ourselves to evolve an existing product.

I find that coming up with new products has to be a fine tuned process. We often get in dilemmas when we create something new because when it hits the shelves something existing has to leave.

What makes the ingredients you source special?

Often companies work backwards and their budgets heavily impact the ingredients that they choose. Not us.

We focus on securing the best available ingredients. We say “we need this ingredient to make this product exceptional.” For example we use vanilla beans that are over $500/kg. They are a staple in our recipes and we refuse to compromise. Or the decision we made to replace traditional flour with fine ground almond flour that is fifteen times the price.

What’s the toughest part of your work?

Not to bring work home with me.

Where do you want to go next with your business? What’s your goal?
We champion an anti-growth philosophy and we keep on stimulating ourselves to make the business better in all aspects from product innovation, to work environment, to sustainability, to shop culture, and I could go on and on.

What’s your favourite album right now?
Oh god! It’s what is has been the past 30 years! I love, love, love disco, R&B and soul. Earth Wind & Fire, the Isley Brothers, Diana Ross, Lou Rawls, George Benson, KC & the Sunshine Band, Bee Gees and Michael Jackson……and then there is Buble. Yes, Michael Buble. I love him in the shop (please don’t ask my co-workers).

What books are you reading?
I just finished Let My People Go Surfing from Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia and Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet by Jesse Itzle. Both are must reads and both are very different. I am also always checking out self help books. I need all the help I can get.

What kind of food do you love?
Simple and pure (also the tagline of a new line of products we are working on). I love cooking at home whenever I can. Usually I don’t follow a cookbook or recipe but recently I started using Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi Sami Tamimi. I am loving the Middle Eastern approach to spices.

What’s your favourite local neighbourhood, and why?

I don’t get out to walk around a lot but I do like Edgemont Village on the North Shore. It is close to where we live and it is a quaint little Village that is surrounded by nature.

Where do you like to travel the most, and why?
We make the occasional trip to Maui and I am drawn to anywhere that there are mountains and good food.

Gift: Local Gourmand