Being a woman in the culinary industry is rough. I wanted to follow in my grandmothers’ footsteps and learn how to cook. So, in 2009, I enrolled in the Culinary Skills / Chef Training program George Brown College. My class had 20 people in it, and I was 1 of 4 women. I was 20, and didn't know how to hold my knife unlike the others who came to school to refine their skills. I had a slow start. People told me to give it up and go towards a different career, but I didn't listen. I dealt with down talk, sexual power tripping, sexism, inappropriate behaviour, and disbelief in my skill…but my love for sharing my heart through cooking kept me going.
My first job at Origin Restaurant in Toronto refined my skills and cooking technique. I came to the job as an apprentice without knowing how to work basic equipment and without ever having worked a dinner service, but the chefs were patient with me. I went from being a oyster scrubber to first cook in my 2 years of employment at Origin. I learned discipline and I learned how to be strong and hardworking…skills that would get me noticed in the future.
I knew after I left that it was my sole goal -- and reason for going through everything I had -- to open a restaurant and own my business. Be my own boss. After leaving Origin, I worked as a sous chef at Blue Goose Pure Foods / Common Food in the summer container market at Harbourfront Centre. For the first time, I ran a staff of 12 and created my own menu. I witnessed people eating my food and appreciating my vision. I loved it!
To save money, I worked full time, 6-7 days a week and 12-hour shifts, as a junior sous chef at a large catering company. If only the people who told me to quit could see me now! I headed weddings for 200 people with teams of ten under me. I catered private sit-down dinners for 6. Clients requested my services. The urge to open my own restaurant was becoming more and more pressing. It would be a tapas restaurant named Ragazza with a Italian Fusion menu. All homemade with love with a fine dining twist…
However, I wanted a business partner, and that's when -- out of nowhere -- I met Steffen Marin, the chef/owner of Heirloom Food Truck.
At that point, I had spent two years in an elite position at the Food Dudes and was making good money. After meeting Steffen, I quit my job and dropped it all to join him in his vision of promoting local and artisanal cuisine from his food truck. Steffen’s vision soon became my own vision. We worked together to revamp his menu and make a name for the food truck. Together, we were getting attention with our food, and our love and passion for feeding our customers.
In June 2016, my dream finally became a reality. I became co-owner of Heirloom. After 6 years of cooking under other chefs, I finally had a chance to show people what I could do! We've done catering, private events around the city, and we have worked the summer and winter markets. In 2017, we plan to open our first restaurant together, called Heirloom 2.0, promoting our local and sustainable cuisine, an extension of the food truck. And I know that my dream tapas restaurant has a place in our future.
Pretty good for a girl who was told she would never make it in this industry!