Cooking, to me, is about the never-ending possibilities of improvement and experimentation, and the real-time reward of spreading joy through food.
Why I Do Want to Work for You?
I would be hard-pressed to find a feeling more fulfilling than seeing clientele beam with excitement when I first introduce a dish, watching their eyes widen as I place it down in front of them, or the look on their faces as they savour the first few bites.
Executing an unforgettable evening for someone celebrating a major life milestone with their closest family and friends, allowing them to just enjoy the special moment and immerse themselves in the joy of the experience is so gratifying.
The satisfaction of a client who frequents several Michelin Star restaurants every year looking you in the eye and saying, “This is the best risotto I’ve ever had and I was at x restaurant last week,” is why I do what I do.
A Little History….
As a young girl growing up, my grandmother Po was an amazing cook.
When she first married my grandfather, however, served him a macaroni casserole without first par-cooking the noodles and he nearly choked and broke his tooth.
Determined, she got herself a paperback copy of Irma Rombauer’s “The Joy of Cooking” (one that is now weathered with spillage, discoloured by cigarette smoke and full of her personal penciled-in annotations– one of my most cherished possessions), and by the time us grandkids came around, she was a talented, self-taught, “locally world famous” master of her kitchen.
One of my favourite pastimes as a small child was being in the farmhouse kitchen with her while she prepared these delicious multi-course meals, garden-fresh preserves and a seemingly infinite supply of baked goods for our large extended family.
She let me enjoy free reign alongside her. She supervised as I baked disgusting impromptu creations she would always try with a smile and a mildly wincing, “that’s delicious!” before hiding it in her pocket to throw out later. She never said I was too young to use the oven or a knife– instead, she just taught me how.
Being elbow deep in a drawer full of flour, covered in food colouring and unable to see over the countertop is how I fondly remember rainy days at the farm.
I’m fortunate to say that at home my parents made sure we had family dinner together every night of the week. Being an ex-farmboy, it was important to my Dad that us kids contributed to daily household chores. I didn’t enjoy doing laundry or dishes, so I found myself constantly helping my mom prepare dinner. Eventually, I got bored of her weekly rotating repertoire of recipes (sorry, Mom–love you!), so I took over and started cooking for our family of six.
I learned that I had a natural knack for flavour combinations.
I could look into the fridge when it seemed like we had “lots of food, but nothing to eat” and create something delicious out of what was already there.
I never used recipes and, somehow, everything always turned out tasting great.
Despite those early experiences, I never dreamed of becoming a Chef.
I went to university for Psychology and Neuroscience and only started cooking in restaurants as a summer job between semesters.
I fell in love with the rush of the rush –that inexplicable high that you feel during a meal service when you’re so busy that there is no time to waste a single movement.
I fell in love with being an integral cog in a well-oiled machine that produced $100,000 in food sales during a single dinner.
I fell in love with kitchen camaraderie and culture–the meritocratic brigade, the practical jokes, the mutual suffering, the nocturnal lifestyle, the feeling of true, full-body exhaustion at the end of a 14-16 hour shift.
Most importantly, I fell in love food and the endless possibilities the restaurant industry entailed.
I’ve had the pleasure of training under some truly amazing chefs who recognized my passion for learning and took me under their wing. They helped me learn to translate my drive to try new things, along with an overload of ideas for flavour combinations and plating design, into actual coherent dishes.
My favourite Chefs challenged me to create my own specials and put items on the menu. They trusted me, they trusted my work, and that gave me the confidence I needed to continue to grow. By working in busy restaurants and large events catering operations, I learned how to thrive under pressure.
I was lucky to have a mentor and thus be able to do my Red Seal Apprenticeship. Part of it entailed semesters at George Brown Culinary School, where I was at the top of my class.
At age 25 I became the Head Chef of a 120-seat restaurant in the booming King St. West area of Toronto. I vowed to treat my employees with trust and respect, and patiently teach them whatever they were willing to learn.
As a Head Chef, every day presented unique challenges and opportunities to grow in ways outside of the kitchen.
It was more than just creating menus and teaching the team how to execute them perfectly; it was budgeting, managing, ordering/inventory, creating a positive atmosphere and a heck of a lot of troubleshooting.
It was doing the dirty work–getting soaking wet in the dish pit when the industrial machine stopped working and the repair man can’t come until Monday, getting up on the stoves to clean the hood vents with the team every week, making sure to be the one peeling potatoes, julienning mirepoix and cleaning calamari every once in a while.
I learned that a good leader is one who is leads by example, and a great team is one who is in the trenches together. If you act as a high and mighty or “above” ever doing menial or hard tasks, it is impossible to motivate people to follow you and to do these tasks for you regularly. My team grew to become like my family and, in the family, everyone had to pitch in.
After living my entire life in the big city, I decided it was time for a change and pursued an opportunity to work at the #1 Lodge in North America. A lifelong skier with a thirst for adventure, I thought it would be a great experience and a chance to keep learning and evolving my skills.
I learned how to provide a bespoke culinary experience outside of a restaurant setting: how to cook quietly because guests are sleeping just above the kitchen; how to be enthusiastically responsive to any request, then figure out how to make it happen; when to be seen and when to stay in the background. Most importantly, I learned the ins and outs of what makes a truly luxurious VIP experience–one that it is so much more than just what is on the plate.
Being a chef is about more than simply making great food–it’s about the story of food, the joy it can bring to people, and the satisfaction of creation. It’s about facilitating special memories and intimate experiences that come from sharing an exquisite meal together.
Being a chef is about love– the love of food, the love of people and the love of the process. I’m very lucky to love what I do.