Including her appointment as SJC Media’s Preferred Catering Partner for its 2023 Experiential Program, as well as TL Insider’s Chef-In-Residence
Q: When did elle cuisine and SJC Media’s partnership begin?
A: The relationship between elle cuisine and SJC Media has been going strong for five years now. Our initial focus was on Toronto Life Insider, to which elle cuisine was the exclusive caterer. We collaborated on pop-up events across the city which quickly gained momentum, featuring different restaurants, vendors and sponsors. Our relationship thrived, as both elle cuisine and TL Insider were growing rapidly. When the pandemic hit, we adapted by creating virtual experiences, initially in collaboration with TL Insider. We later offered these experiences to our own clients, resulting in at least one bespoke virtual event each month. Now, as we emerge from the pandemic, we’re starting to have a lot of fun again as the storm has passed and Toronto’s appetite for events has returned in full force!
Q: What are some of the trends and changes in the world of catering that you’ve witnessed since then?
A: One major change is the skyrocketing food costs coupled with supply chain disruptions. Not only are ingredients more expensive, but they’re also harder to secure. Post-pandemic, consumers have grown accustomed to immediate satisfaction, expecting quick turnaround times and affordable price points, similar to the convenience of food delivery services like Uber Eats. This creates a disconnect between these consumer expectations and the realities of cost constraints for local catering businesses. It’s been a big shift and internal challenge to manage.
Optics have also changed a lot. At one time, events in the city were all about making a splash and creating a wow factor, but now there’s a shift toward crafting a more approachable and subdued style, especially with corporate clients. It’s about how clients and their guests perceive the event and the value of their spending. Furthermore, diversity is becoming the norm in menu preferences. Requests for diverse options like halal, vegan, and a variety of global cuisines have increased substantially. Clients, whether corporate or private, want their menus to be inclusive and representative of Toronto’s diverse population. Personally, I see these challenges as opportunities for growth. It’s intriguing to adapt to changing trends and continuously evolve our offerings, it’s kind of exciting and keeps you on your toes. Some may find it uncomfortable, but I thrive in this type of environment.
Q: Elle cuisine has been named Preferred Catering Partner of SJC Media’s Experiential Program, as well as TL Insider’s Chef-In-Residence. What are you most looking forward to as you enter the next chapter of this relationship?
A: It’s an incredible feeling! I don’t want to say it’s like going back in time, but in many ways, it does feel like that. We’re back to a stage where we can get to the drawing board and start collaborating on new and exciting experiences. I’m looking forward to getting creative and having some fun again, to event-plan on my own terms, and to test out new menu offerings for different kinds of experiences. That’s what we did pre-pandemic, and we had a lot of fun doing it. So, I’m really excited to be starting something new with the SJC Media team once again.
Q: Can you share an inside scoop on recent events?
A: Of course! We recently hosted an elle cuisine event in collaboration with a new boutique hotel on Dundas West, which has a Brooklyn-inspired vibe. We created a fantastic menu with New York and Brooklyn influences, including pizzas cooked in a pizza oven and Japanese Konro char-grilled smash burgers. It was a refreshing change for our chefs to craft a menu outside their usual daily offerings. We also provided a food menu, staffing and bar services for The Ones, FASHION magazine’s most recent party. Which was an absolute blast.
Q: Tell us more about the upcoming launch of elle cuisine’s e-commerce delivery program.
A: We initially launched our e-commerce platform during the pandemic, providing at-home meal kits. Now, we’re evolving it into a full-stop delivery program to include both corporate and private clients. I think it’s something that people are really looking for these days. You can expect its launch on our e-commerce platform by Nov. 1. By the end of the month, all our corporate offerings will be available on the platform.
Q: Shifting gears a bit, congratulations on becoming a mom! What has that adjustment been like for you?
A: Thank you! Becoming a mom has been a journey filled with challenges. I struggled with fertility issues for years before finally getting pregnant. It was a trying period that isn’t talked about enough, and I believe we should normalize discussions around it because it can be really tough. Once I became pregnant, I still had a lot to handle while preparing for my daughter’s arrival. The nine months seemed to fly by, and I had this vision of hiring and preparing the team for my maternity leave. I realized that there were limits to what I could accomplish in that time frame, and I had to let go of some control. Because I’m so hands-on in elle cuisine’s day-to-day operations, this was a personal challenge I had to face and adapt to.
I recently began working full-time again, and while I considered taking a more extended maternity leave, I found it challenging to completely disconnect from my business. As an entrepreneur, I enjoy staying connected and informed, even while on leave. During my four-month maternity leave, I did step back from day-to-day responsibilities but remained available for my employees and key clients if needed. My husband also took time off, and we spent nearly three months together at home with our newborn, which was great. It was a unique and enjoyable experience, as both of us tend to be workaholics. After that period, we both felt ready to return to work, and I actually returned to work full-time last week.
Q: As elle cuisine’s executive chef and CEO, how do you see your role evolving within the context of business development and new partnerships?
A: My incredible team has proven themselves to be more than capable and has taken on more leadership responsibilities, including the day-to-day operations, client satisfaction, and event execution. This trust in my team’s abilities has allowed me to shift my focus to more strategic aspects of the business.
When I returned to work, I recognized that my value lies in driving growth and innovation for the company. Pre-pandemic, we were experiencing rapid revenue growth, and during the pandemic, our focus was on survival. In the past year post-pandemic, we achieved stability and profitability while nurturing a great team focused on culture and client satisfaction. Now, my goal is to define the future of elle cuisine, identify potential partners, and explore avenues for expanding revenue streams and audiences. My first calls were to Jason and Chantal at SJC Media because they have been pivotal partners since 2017, even during the pandemic and my maternity leave. I thought, “You know what, this is going to be the first relationship that I lean into so that we can hit the ground running on some new and exciting stuff.”
Learn more about elle cuisine here and sign up for TL Insider here to keep tabs on upcoming events and programming.