To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we decided to interview 21 incredible women who are making their mark in the foodservice industry.
From leaving secure full-time jobs to pursue their passion, to fighting uphill battles to get to where they are today, these women are making a positive impact in the foodservice industry.
According to a McKinsey & Co’s Women in the food industry report, women are underrepresented at all levels in the food industry. With 49% of entry-level employees being women and only 23% representation at the top.
But, more and more women within this industry are working together to create new opportunities for one another, whether it’s through mentorship, jobs, support groups, you name it. They are empowering one another everyday and it’s amazing to see.
The foodservice industry is hard for anyone, but it’s especially hard for women.
A study by The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that 80% of female restaurant workers had experience harassment from a coworker, two-thirds had experienced it from a manager. This behaviour has been going on for too long without repercussions. Although this issue is far from being fixed, there have been several strides to correct this behaviour. From “Open Conversations” like the ones lead by OpenTable CEO, Christa Quarles to programs like The Dandelion Initiative’s “Safer Bars and Safer Spaces,” changes are being made everyday.
It’s important to note that these changes aren’t just being made by women, but by others in the foodservice industry (and outside of it) as well. In order to create real change, everyone needs to be on board and advocate for change and we’re seeing that everyday.
The women we have spoken to are just some of the amazing women who are moving mountains for themselves and others within the foodservice industry.
These women hustle. They are badasses. And most importantly, they’re paving the way for the next generation. We’re so impressed by these women that we wanted to help spread their stories for all to hear; read more below!
Owner, Manning Canning
On her first day back from her honeymoon, Christine was packaged out of her job. She had been a marketer for over 20 years and she decided that it was time for a career change. As an Italian, she grew up preserving foods so it was the natural next step for her. She started selling her preserved creations at farmers markets. As she grew her business, she saw that a major challenge for food entrepreneurs was lack of access to reliable kitchen spaces. So, that’s when she opened up her second business under the Manning Canning umbrella: rentable kitchen spaces.
“What I’ve loved about this journey is that, on the preserves side, I’m creating products that actually taste like they should. We’re making quality products that are good for people in a transparent way. On the rentable kitchen side, we’re giving entrepreneurs, chefs, caterers and so on a place to get started. They don’t need this massive financial burden to get started, but rather book a place by the hour or day and build their businesses at a lesser cost. We’re contributing to the food economy and I’m so grateful for it!
I’m part of a female entrepreneur group and we get together every month to discuss our businesses, challenges and wins. I’ve always believed that I could do it, and being surrounded by so many amazing, supportive women really validates those feelings. We help each other when needed, give sanity checks when needed; there’s always someone else in the same boat as you so you’re never really alone!”
Executive Chef, Craft Beer Market
Cass fell into the industry over 12 years ago. Her father was a cook so she thought, “if he can do it, I definitely can!” She started at an Italian bistro at the age of 18 with no experience. She was working alongside a group of 40-or-so-year-old men who had been cooking their whole lives. Needless to say it was a tough year. She soon realized that maybe she needed to be around more women so her managers transferred her to another location where she worked under a female sous chef. From that point on, she learned to much about cooking, built up her confidence and decided to pursue further education in the culinary space.
“Throughout my career, I’ve worked in a wide range of food businesses: catering, fine dining, food trucks, bistros and everything in between. It’s made me such a well-rounded chef. I went from working as a sous chef having to deal with such inappropriate behaviour from my male counterparts to leading a team that doesn’t even think twice about gender. I had to fight to get to the top, but now that I’m here, I want to create a space for everyone to learn and grow, and to be accepting of their peers. I want to continue to promote spaces where a person won’t even think twice about having a woman as their boss. I think that it’s our job to create these safe, accepting spaces for the next generation of young women looking to enter the industry. I’ve been very fortunate to have a boss who help me promote just that.”
Founder and Chief Pickling Officer, Mighty Fine Brine
Dina has a background in public health and worked in various roles for the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care for about 6 years. Needless to say, the bureaucratic lifestyle was not for her so she quit her job and starting thinking about what she wanted to do next. She didn’t have a grand plan to start a business, it just happened organically. She turned her hobby of urban homesteading and food preservation into a career. Within two years, she went from selling fermented pickles, sauerkraut and hot sauce at farmers markets to becoming a nationally distributed brand.
“I’ve always had a very strong entrepreneurial spirit, calling everyone I knew and telling them about all of my business ideas and I finally just decided to take this leap of faith. All of my success to this day validates that I made the right choice. This has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done, professionally. It’s hard work, but this whole experience has given me a tremendous amount of confidence.
I have an incredibly supportive and talented group of female entrepreneurs by my side. It’s tough to run a business in a vacuum; it can be lonely and overwhelming to tackle so many different, and often new challenges. This group of women has been so invaluable to me and my business. They’re my sisters. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have at least four conversations where we’re swapping advice, challenges and so on. It’s a sisterhood and I’m so grateful to be part of it.”
Founder, The Dandelion Initiative
At the age of 18, Viktoria started serving. Her experience was like that of many survivors, unsafe and harmful. Luckily she got an opportunity to work at Rancho Relaxo and learned what safer, more inclusive spaces could look like. It was the most inclusive, empowering and rewarding experience she’s had in the food and beverage industry. It gave her a safe space to navigate being a young woman working in the industry. Viktoria took her experiences and turned them into something beautiful: The Dandelion Initiative (Est. 2016).
“My goal is not to glorify the details of the trauma, but create a safe space for all. When we run training sessions at bars and restaurants, we get amazing feedback, but booking those sessions is tough. Rape culture has been so normalized in the industry that when we talk about transformative action, people think punishment when really we’re talking about transformation and accountability.
The next step for me and the Dandelion Initiative is getting spaces to sign up for the Safer Bars and Spaces training, a program we developed specifically for our industry. We want to empower people to prioritize safety and raise the bar for our industry through education and candid conversations that challenge the status quo, create safe spaces, and transform workplace culture.”
Owner, Mary's Brigadeiro Handcrafted Chocolate
Mariane grew up making delicious desserts and chocolates with her mom. She went to university and studied business administration and worked in the private section doing HR. Being so involved with her mother's business, from sales and marketing to business administration, she decided that it was time to quit her job. She did that for two years until she decided to move to Canada with her husband.
“Throughout my life, my mom has been my main source of inspiration. She’s the biggest entrepreneur I know and it comes so naturally to her. Creating these delicious treats with my mom allowed me to discover my passion.
When I thought about opening a business, I knew I wanted it to involve chocolate and Brazil. I looked around and couldn’t find any confectionary shops that specialized in Brazilian desserts. So, I decided to open up a business that focused on artisanal, hand-crafted Brazilian chocolates: Brigadeiros. I wanted to introduce this new kind of confectionary treat to the Canadian market. When I first got to Canada 4 years ago, I didn’t know anyone, I just had a business plan. Lucky for me, some people heard about my story and wanted to offer their help in the form of mentorship. I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I had received. I was a young woman and a newcomer. I want to use my success and knowledge to now help others looking to start their own businesses and be an inspiration to them.”
Home Chef and Student
At the age of 46, Monica decided that it was time to start focusing on something she loved and was truly passionate about: cooking! So, she took the leap and enrolled in George Brown’s Vegetarian Culinary Arts program with her son.
Monica grew up cooking by her mom’s side with traditional Eastern ingredients like meat and potatoes. As a celiac vegan, she enjoys the challenge of recreating some of the dishes she enjoyed growing up, but with a vegan and celiac friendly twist.
“Sometimes it’s okay to start fresh, regardless of your age. Life is too short to do what you don’t want to do. This has been an amazing journey that I’ve just embarked on and I can’t wait to someday move out of the city and own my own vegan bed and breakfast and pet sanctuary!”
Chef, Owner and President, The Veg Company
Sara’s love for the food industry came out of a desire to create things that she wanted to eat, since she became vegetarian at a very young age, before it became widespread. After getting her Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University, she had a successful marketing career in multinational consumer packaged goods companies – all the while privately tempting others with delicious veg food. That organically grew into demand for others to learn how to make the dishes themselves and for catered food. A small side business was born, and it grew.
To pursue both her love of business and veg food, Sara took the plunge and launched The Veg Company (specializing in food marketing, product development, and events). She also realized at that time that there was really nowhere in the city (let alone Canada) for people to learn how to cook without meat or fish. So, she approached George Brown College, Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Toronto where they hired her to teach one class. She quickly re-wrote the curriculum and the popularity grew. A few years later, she proposed that they launch a vegetarian certificate and together they did! It took a long time to get to where she’s at today because being a vegetarian or plant-based chef was unheard of back then. Regardless, Sara kept updating and expanding the program, which has grown and evolved into what is it today: A plant-focused, mostly vegan Certificate in Vegetarian Culinary (very sought after!).
Since her journey started, she has gotten her Red Seal, and two certificates at George Brown (Food and Media and Social Media Marketing), has done numerous TV and show appearances, all while growing The Veg Company with corporate clients. And she continues to teach at George Brown. Needless to say, Sara hustles.
“The Vegetarian Culinary Certificate has grown tremendously; it’s my labour of love. It’s amazing to see students from all walks of life, from people who have never cooked before to talented chefs looking to learn more about plant-based cuisine. Two of my students have launched vegan cheese companies, I helped another student open his first vegan restaurant in Toronto (now he has three!); the stories go on. When students ask to pick my brain outside of school hours, I always tell them that they can buy an hour of my time for a cup of coffee – and I’ve enjoyed lots of great coffee! I’m extremely proud of my student’s enthusiasm and successes.”
CEO and Founder, Fressy Bessie Foods Inc.
“I was a producer at CBC TV and Radio for many years until I decided that I wanted to do something different. I’ve always loved cooking so that felt like the right next step. So, I started selling baby food at farmers markets but no one bought it. Being a mom, I met so many other parents who had trouble feeding their kids healthy foods because they were just very picky eaters. So, I went to plan B. I took my pureed foods and turned them into popsicles and they always sold out. We continued to develop the product, and at the time we were growing at a slow pace until last year I went to a trade show and signed on a national distributor. In one year, we went from being in a couple stores to being in 83!
This has been quite a ride. Being an entrepreneur requires an incredible amount of hard work. You’ll make mistakes all of the time, some very costly, but you’ll learn from them. I think I’ve been very fortunate because I found something that people want and those people completely embrace it. When a little kid comes up to me at a farmers market they dance around because they know they’re getting a popsicle; I’ll wink at the parents because they know that they’re really just feeding their kids pureed fruit… on a stick! This business does my heart good. It may take a lot of work, but that’s what makes it worth it.”
Food Entrepreneur and Sommelier
Raelene is a tea sommelier; she’s a tea expert. She specializes in tea blending and cooking with tea. Over the years she has grown her passion into a business. From writing a cookbook to selling wholesale tea to restaurants. Raelene is also the Co-Chair of the Tea Guild of Canada. As she built up her business, she cultivated strong relationships with her clients. She found that they continued to ask questions like, “Where can I find a supplier for almonds?” and others alike. She realized that there weren’t a lot of resources out there to educate restaurateurs on such critical aspects of their business, from supply procurement to marketing. So she decided to do something about it.
“When you’re in the industry, you really see how often restaurants fail. It’s heartbreaking. I really want to help food entrepreneurs because this is a problem that needs to be addressed. When it comes to conferences and other informational events, it’s the same story every time; they provide very general bits of information. They rarely focus on food industry specific concerns like packaging, food safety and so on. I’ve seen my clients struggle to find that information when they need it and their businesses suffer as a result. That’s why I’ve decided to start my podcast, Sips, Bites and Sparks: Sips of inspiration, bites of information to spark you into action today (launching in May). I want to make a difference and I think that this is the best way that I can do it.
I’m part of the Canadian Women in Food group, which gives me a lot of amazing resources to bring onto the podcast and share stories, strategies and more with restaurateurs. I want to inspire people and propel their businesses forward.”
Owner and Operator, Bar Cats Commercial Cleaning Services
Melissa’s first introduction to food was at the age of 15, when she was a camp volunteer washing pots and pans. She worked a bunch of serving jobs, then bartended and eventually got into management. Her biggest break was working in hotel management at the Four Seasons Hotel, Santa Barbara. She later transferred to the Yorkville location, working at their 5-star French restaurant, Truffles. She worked in the lounge and studio cafe for 4 years. After some well-deserved time-off, Melissa started her own business.
“One day, I was in a restaurant restroom and noticed that it was extremely dirty. It made me think of the Anthony Bourdain quote, ‘If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like.’ At that moment, my business idea came to life. I came up with a name, created a logo, did everything myself and launched my business.
I’m really passionate about helping owners succeed. My services offer them a chance to do that without breaking the bank. My team and I give restaurateurs one less thing to worry about. They trust that when they walk out their doors, their establishment will be clean and risk-free from a poor review from the health inspector. My business has been such a rewarding experience for me. I get to help other business owners succeed and I’m creating jobs for others. It’s just amazing, I have no words.”
Owner and Operator, Jewels Under the Kilt
When Elisabeth moved to a farm in Fergus, she noticed that the people living there cared deeply about eating local and being sustainable, which was something that she really believed in. The move made her fall in love with food again. So, she started growing nuts: hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and more. By doing this, she was able to keep the nutritional value of the nuts, but impart new delicious flavours to them like apple, carrot, pumpkin and so on.
“It’s been a crazy journey and I’ve met a lot of people along the way. When it comes to the all of the entrepreneurs I’ve met though, I noticed that female entrepreneurs are much more willing to mentor and help one another. Each woman that I have in my wheelhouse has helped me in some capacity and vice versa. That’s the power of being a woman. We open ourselves to help one another and because of that, we all move a step closer towards success.”
Maddy studied social work at university for five years. Once she started doing social work full time post-grad she realized right away she didn’t want to sit at a desk for the rest of her life. So, she started menu planning, blogging and even built a food-focused Instagram account. Through her Instagram she met Dina Rock (also featured in this post!) and started working for her, making pickles and sauerkraut. Eventually, she decided to go to culinary school to jump start her career as a chef.
“I was so scared to get into the culinary field because it’s been something I’ve obsessed over for a while, it’s my passion. I was the kid that watched every single food show, read everything to do with food, food has been such a big part of my life. Luckily I’ve had some amazing mentors, Dina Rock and Joanna Sable. Being the only woman in the kitchen at my workplace, it’s been awesome having female mentors who both happen to be in the industry. They gave me my first break in the food space. They saw me for my passion and skills, and really believed in me. That pushed me to believe in myself.”
Seema grew up with a family that spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking home-cooked meals. Food was an important part of her upbringing, it was a way to bring the whole family together. After being in the corporate world for about 25 years, she was fed up with her job and decided she needed a change in life. She started looking into potential business ideas because she had decided that she wanted to be her own boss and food seemed to be the natural choice.
“There’s something so noble about nourishing another human. I felt like I needed to build a business that had a positive social impact; I wanted to get behind a product that would make a difference. A good friend of mine owned a restaurant at the time and we decided to start a small lunch delivery business. It grew rapidly, but as we scaled, I stopped feeling the love. We were no longer growing as a food business, but rather a logistics business. It was just around the time when Uber Eats was exploding on the scene so I decided to pivot the company.
I took my best-selling curries and found a way to get the shelf-life extended so that we could bring it to retail stores. My passion was local sourcing. As a B Corporation, the new Tiffinday allowed me to focus on what mattered most to me, being environmentally friendly, having a sustainability focus and working with farmers. Being an entrepreneur takes a toll on you, especially in the early days when the financial risk is at its peak. But, if you plan your business properly, work hard and stomach discomfort, anything is possible.”
Kelly studied Tourism at Sheridan College. Soon after, she moved to Whistler and got into waitressing as a way to support herself. She loved it. Eventually, she moved back to Ontario and started bartending in the village at Blue Mountain where she met her husband Paul (who was also bartending). The two of them wanted to create a space outside of Facebook and ads and spam to connect with other people working in the industry. So, one day they thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have an app that creates that provides that same sense of community, but just for the staff?” Their aim was to create a space where restaurant staff could share stories, challenges, information, jokes; they wanted to create a space to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, they pursued the idea and created their app in 2015.
“There were so many challenges along the way. But, if you have passion, dedication and commitment, you can make anything happen. I’m proof of that. Being in this industry has given me the confidence to say, ‘I’m a boss lady. I own this and I can do this.’ I think that many women these days really need that extra boost of confidence that the restaurant industry can provide. It breaks you out of your shell and it teaches you loyalty, respect, community, camaraderie and so much more. Women, we’re just owning it now and I love that!
The restaurant industry has changed so much these past 20 years. It’s progressed into a community where people have mad respect for one another and they’re proud of their profession whether it be bartending or serving. I think that we are the sexiest, coolest, wittiest, sassiest, hardest working group out there.”
Founder, Phancy Food & Catering
While she was getting her journalism degree, Meagan worked part-time jobs that were all connected to food in one way or another. After university, she realized that journalism wasn’t the path she wanted to go down, so she started a food blog. In parallel, she started working at a lot of restaurants, catering companies, freelanced, helped with pop-ups, the list goes on! All of her experience gave her the knowledge and exposure that she needed to go and start her own catering company.
“It started out as a side hustle and it’s just blossomed into a full-time catering company now. I love creating classic comfort food that you eat as a child, but with a twist. The food I create and serve is meant to be accessible to everyone. You don’t need deep pockets to experience an elevated dish, whether it’s homemade chicken nuggets or pizza. That’s the whole idea behind my company.
Almost a year ago, I started the Female Food Entrepreneur Network, which consists of about 400 members. I realized that there were certain things that women have to endure in this industry and it was so cathartic to realize that others were going through the same things too. So, every month we would get together and bring on a food and drink sponsor, as well as speakers to talk about that month’s theme. This was an important outlet for me and many other women to connect with others in the industry and grow as business owners and professionals.”
Founder and Sauce Boss, Nona Vegan Foods
At a young age and as a vegan, Kailey had to learn how to make her own food. Growing up, Kailey and her late mother bonded over their creativity in the kitchen. As she grew up, she found herself cooking more and more. She was working at a health food store doing demos and sampling when one day she realized that there was nothing in the market that was anywhere close to what she was creating.
“There was no vegan Alfredo. You could find vegan cheese and all of these other substitutes but no Alfredo, I could never figure out why. One day, this lady came up to me at the store and asked if there were any vegan Alfredo sauces that weren’t made with junk or chemicals, or soy. And that’s when I really pushed for my idea. My mom taught me to nourish people with food and that’s exactly what I wanted to do. The owners at the health food store told me to give it a go and try to demo and sell it at their shop.
When I started out 6 years ago, I had no clue what I was doing. I was just super eager, I signed myself up for all of these food festivals and trade shows and it paid off. Within 2 years I got my sauce into Whole Foods. "We entered the Toronto Mac and Cheese festival and were actually voted ‘Best of Fest’! Some people were upset because they felt it wasn’t “real” cheese! This experience validated for me that I was creating something that people really loved. Being a business owner, this company is my baby; it takes my everything. Some nights I stay up super late, and wake up super early. It’s hard work. But at the end of the day, I’m extremely proud of what I’ve built, who I’ve become, and I’m very thankful to have this opportunity.”
Owner and Che, Aphrodite Cooks
Vanessa’s family has been in the restaurant industry for three generations now. After graduating university, she went to the Stratford Chefs School where she refined her cooking skills. During this time she apprenticed at Scaramouche. After graduating, she got a job at a food manufacturing company doing research and development until she realized she wanted to get back into what she was truly passionate about: cooking. So, she started working as a private chef in the home of a Toronto Maple Leafs, eventually moving on to start her own company, Aphrodite Cooks.
“I never really thought of cooking as a career until after I graduated from university. I got a full time, big corporation job but I was working on someone else’s schedule. Starting my own business has given me so much independence over my time, which is extremely important to me, all while allowing me to pursue my passion of cooking. I wanted to show people what was in my head in terms of creativity and I get to do that with my business.
Success to me is less about the dollar figures and more about succeeding in the roles that I’ve committed to in my life. It’s about making sure that my family is happy, my clients are happy, and that I’m happy and fulfilled as well. There are a lot of ups and downs when you’re self-employed. Is hasn’t been financially easy, but at the end of the day as long as the bills are paid and I’m still smiling, that’s a win in my books. You can’t put a price on freedom and independence.”
Co-Founder, Building Roots
Lisa has had quite the career. She entered the industry as a barista, went on to start her own catering company and so much more. She liked to cook, people liked her food, and as a single mother, she thought that catering was a great source of income. Eventually, she wanted more from life so she started working in Ottawa at Operation Come Home, which was a drop-in center for youth at risk. The facility had a garden outside so Lisa started their Food Matters program, where she would collect food from the garden with the youth, and they would cook.
“When I moved back to Toronto, I applied to a few jobs in social enterprises but got nothing, so I decided to make soup and sell it. I did that for 3 years, making about 80 litres of soup each week. It was chopping, pouring soup into jars, labelling them, creating wonderful unique combinations. It was quite exciting until it wasn’t. I took a step back and thought, ‘Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?’ At about that time I met Darcey Higgins, the founder of Food Forward, a company that was all about food advocacy. In 2013, we founded Building Roots not knowing where it would go. We thought solely on urban agriculture. Fast-forward 5 years, we have the only shipping container grocery store in the city located in Moss Park, a high-needs area that’s generally overlooked by the city.
We took a shipping container and turned it into the Moss Park Market and we have a Trillium Grow Grant that allows us to do a wide variety of programming with kids, youth and adults who live in TCHC. We coordinate workshops around how to make the most of what you have, like planting kitchen scraps and growing your own turmeric and ginger in pots. It’s not just about the food, it’s about bringing people together and creating a cohesive community. Since we’ve started, we've seen the community come to trust us and they shop at the market, attend the Sunday Lounge and other programs. It’s been truly amazing and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve done in such a period of time.”
Co-Owner, Poirier's Pastries
“I grew up in a household where the kitchen was the heart of our home, and I have been baking since I was young. I have always had the entrepreneurial hustle and opened my first bank account when I was 9 after selling homemade cookies at a lemonade stand. You can imagine the excitement I had when the cutest cupcake shop opened up down the street from me. As a co-op student there I had the opportunity to learn first-hand what it was like to run a business, which inspired me to have my own brick & mortar one day. After pursuing an education in baking & pastry I established Poirier’s Pastries with my sister Jillian, who is our cake designer and co-owner.
Running a small bakery requires us to manage many aspects from baking, food styling, purchasing, marketing, and managing finances. It’s not all sprinkles and rainbows, but ultimately we have found our passion in merging baking and art.
Over the past few years Poirier’s Pastries has been through many ventures from local farmer’s markets, handmade trade shows, and now launching our products in a retail space. Throughout this journey we have met so many women entrepreneurs we now call friends, who inspire us daily. Also we are fortunate enough to have an amazing support system who encourage us through the many challenging times, believe in our vision, and celebrate our success.”
Restaurant Technology Expert, TouchBistro
Beenish grew up in sunny Pakistan and went on to pursue an education in law and technology in England and Canada. She was only 5 when she got her first computer and was the only girl in her class (and neighbourhood), who broke her piggybank to buy educational games and learn everything about the wondrous world of technology.
“I was very enchanted by any form of technology and broke a great many gender stereotypes especially when I created my very first program at the age of 14 – a basic hotel management system.”
“For me, there is no stopping. Having grown up in a society where the concept of getting married in teenage years is not alien, I have seen many young girls give up their dreams of becoming a pilot or a scientist or the next Julia Child. As a technology professional in the restaurant space, I speak with women from all walks of life everyday who are starting and/or managing a restaurant. It is refreshing to hear their stories of relentless passion to not only serve scrumptious delights but also to embrace the best restaurant technologies that can make their lives easier. These women are passionate, fearless and are creating a culture of belonging, where anyone can walk into their restaurants and feel super welcome. There is nothing better than the feeling of knowing that I have provided another woman with the right tools to start or better manage her dream project. I want to continue advocating for and sponsoring women because believe me, sisterhood is scarce, so let’s carve out this path together to make the world a much more inclusive place for other generations to come.”
Teressa was almost 30 when she got into the industry. She got a degree in political science, was a single parent and had a massive student debt to pay off. Wanting to spend more time with her son, she didn’t want a 9-5 job; she entered the restaurant industry as a host at an award-winning french bistro in Victoria, BC.
The owner and sommelier recognized that Teressa had an amazing sense of smell and inspired in her a deep appreciation for wine. He got her to do frequent blind tastings, and built up her knowledge and palette. Following that, she starting working at a well-respected Italian restaurant. She was training under their sommelier, who was one of the very few females in that position at the time.
In 2008, she moved to Toronto as a sommelier herself, specializing in Italian wine. Eventually, her experience in Toronto also lead her to be trained as a sake specialist. Teressa is currently freelancing and is an admin of Toronto’s Food and Wine Navigator Facebook group. She mainly focuses on topics related to labour laws, treatment and lack of representation for people of colour, women and those within the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups.
“The culture shock between BC and Toronto was insane. In BC, farm-to-table type restaurants were so common, whereas Toronto was just starting on that trend. The labor laws are a whole other story. In Ontario, they’re so vague and general that restaurant owners can get away with so much if they wanted to. I remember one time as I was applying around, one of the employers who interviewed me had mentioned that they didn’t hire women in the dining room, but only the bar. It really shocked me. After that experience, I landed a job at a very prestigious restaurant and was the only women of “captain” servers at the time. It was just me and 10 guys. It’s unfortunate that this still happens at certain restaurants today, but you can definitely see the shift at a lot of restaurants moving to a more progressive, equal model.