The culinary scene is often thought to be a largely male-dominated industry. And the restaurant business is notorious for the long hours, tight margins, and stresses of an entrepreneurial life. But, like every industry in our modern world, the winds of change are coming… and women are making waves in the food industry and they are being recognized for it. Though there are many in the Burlington and Oakville area to talk about, here is an introduction to a few of our female makers and shakers in the culinary industry.
Juliana Berrio Familia Fine Foods
Juliana Berrio has always found that time spent with her family, while enjoying a meal around the table, is incredibly valuable. Juliana wanted to create a space where other families would be able to enjoy this experience, feeling closer to their families over a meal.
Launching Familia Fine Foods along with her husband, Luis, and two daughters, she has tried to make a place that feels like home to her customers – enjoying laughs and sharing with them a taste of Colombian culture. While living far away from the rest of their family has had its challenges, it has shown them the importance of creating their own community in Canada, who now feel like family. Juliana wholeheartedly believes there is nothing more important than doing what you love, and enriching every experience with a touch of that passion.
17-3245 Harvester Road, Burlington
Kelly Childs + Erinn Weatherbie
Kelly’s Bake Shoppe
Co-founders of Kelly’s Bake Shoppe in Burlington, Kelly and Erinn, made their splash in the culinary industry in 2010 with their first restaurant Kindfood (now known as Lettuce Love Cafe). Their aim was to help others see how easy it is to adopt a plant-based, vegan diet, without sacrificing flavour. The demand at Kindfood was so great, that they expanded to the Bake Shoppe in 2012. Thousands flock through their doors weekly, and they are so grateful for all of their customers; their mantra is to ‘live a life of gratitude’. One dessert they can’t live without? Their Mile High Brownie.
401 Brant St, Burlington
Saving Thyme catering & patisserie
Alex Kinsman, co-owner of Saving Thyme in Burlington, was drawn to the industry due to a love of working with her hands, not having a fixed schedule and discovering a love for local food. Starting in the pastry section of Dundas, Ontario’s popular ‘Quatrefoil Restaurant’ when they first opened, she was able to experience a start-up kitchen environment and be mentored by the talented culinary team at Quatrefoil. The knowledge gained during this experience led to the opening of Saving Thyme with her husband, Phil (plus his famous butter croissants!). Alex loves working with her family each day, bringing joy to her community through amazing food. Her biggest tidbit of advice: always stay true to the vision and leave the egos at the door.
450 Appleby Line, Burlington
Courtney Colas La Parisienne Crêperie
Like many others, Courtney Colas of La Parisienne Crêperie in Bronte fell into the industry as a part time job while in school. As the years went by, it became her career, with her working in almost every position you could hold within the hospitality industry. When the opportunity to revamp La Parisienne Crêperie came up, Courtney and her husband jumped on it. Courtney’s passion is creativity through food; she loves to cook and loves watching someone’s face as they try something you have created just for them – savouring every bite. Her current favourite dish: Courtney couldn’t possibly choose one, but loves their French Onion Soup, and their BLTCA (bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, avocado) Crêpe with a poached egg on top for brunch!
93 Bronte Road, Oakville
Nicky Leonelli Di Mario’s Trattoria
Nicky Leonelli has been passionate about food for as long as she can remember. She was brought up enjoying the simple pleasures of cooking, and naturally gravitated towards it when she moved to Canada in 1988 – inspired to make a splash in the food industry by non-believers who thought she would not succeed in the culinary business. Though there was difficulty in the industry, Nicky learned resilience and how to be patient with the outcomes. She stuck to her vision for the restaurant and did not allow her visions to be swayed. The good stuff about the food biz: Nicky loves her staff, who have become like family to her, and her guests. If it’s on the menu as a feature while you’re visiting Di Mario’s Trattoria, try their Ravioli Lobster – it’s Nicky’s favourite to share with others!
1455 Lakeshore Rd, Burlington
Joanna Tomal Piazza Bistro
Joanna, co-owner of Piazza Bistro in Downtown Oakville, was attracted to the restaurant industry because of her passion for well executed, simple, comfort food. She describes herself as ‘obsessed’ with cookbooks, personally owning more than she could possibly count. It was this obsession for food, combined with her love of home-made family-style cooking that led her to launch Piazza Bistro 5 years ago. After 5 successful years, she says her biggest lesson was learning the difference between cooking at home for family and friends, and cooking for a room full of customers. She says it was a learning experience, but the atmosphere of the restaurant when it’s humming with conversation and full of satisfied customers with smiles on their faces makes it all worthwhile. Her favourite dish? A tie between her (famous) Dill Pickle Soup and her secret Meatball recipe.
94 George St, Oakville