Yoda's journey into cooking begins with playing in the dirt at my childhood home in Thorndale, Ontario. I started navigating my way through the restaurant scene, and later became a Red Seal Chef, restaurateur and private caterer. I've always loved food and once I got a taste for professional cooking and entrepreneurship, I always knew this is what I wanted to do with my life!
I was raised as your typical 'country' kid... I played in the dirt, always had to help with the chores, and I considered eating cherry tomatoes right off the porch plant an 'after school snack.' I wasn't an incredibly adventurous eater, but was lucky enough to have parents that cared about food. My mom was always a great cook - I have fond memories of making onion buns with her in the winter to go alongside hearty stew (I can still smell those onions!) My dad became a great cook a little later in life, but was always picking carrots out of the ground and encouraging us to take a bite - dirt and all. He has the greatest green-thumb of anyone I know! His garden today is full of meyer lemons, tomatoes of all colours and he even has an avocado tree in his office! If you’ve ever had food from Yoda’s Kitchen, you’ve had food grown from my dad’s garden!
My decision to become a chef came to me in my late teens after my parents separated and, after many meals of Kraft Dinner (eek!), my dad and I decided that one of us would have to learn. I took it on as a hobby and quickly realized that I had immense passion for it. I enrolled in Niagara College's Chef Training program that summer and off I went.
Fast forward a few years to my apprenticeship under Chef Alfred Estaphan at Sunningdale Golf Course in London. I'd been in the restaurant scene as a line cook at a few different establishments, and I'd begun to find my style as a young chef - I understood the importance of shopping locally, cooking seasonally and making things from scratch. It was during this time that I decided to do a bit of traveling so I took off to Australia for several months. I made enough money to keep traveling by picking macadamia nuts, making candy with a traveling brittle connoisseur and eventually got a job training under a pastry chef on a huge beach resort with a view of the ocean. It was pure bliss. I was missing home though, and after a short trip across Canada to visit the west coast, I came back and settled in London.
While working at some of the city's best restaurants (Braise and The Only on King to name a few) and working part time at Fanshawe College as a lab technician in the Culinary Department, I decided to give catering a go. I developed a business plan in 2010 and it was my Five Year Plan to quit my restaurant job and start catering full time. This dream became a reality in a short 8 months. My dreams were coming true!
During my time as a professional caterer, I had the chance to cater so many amazing events, meet many wonderful people and helped change people's lives. Along the way I had many, many challenges, but got to cater some pretty crazy events. I have catered in an open field with no running water or electricity. I've catered on a moving train. I've catered a surprise engagement in the middle of Springbank Park and a walnut fell and shattered one of my dessert plates! I've been blessed to be invited into many of your homes, and will always consider my time as a private caterer as one of the greatest times of my life.
In 2016 while my catering company was soaring, I decided to do what no one thought I would do... I opened a restaurant! In May 2016, we opened the doors of Glassroots. During the time Glassroots was open, we achieved many wonderful awards and accolades. We won Our London's "Best Restaurant" and "Best Patio" contest, and we were also named "London's Best Kept Dining Secret" by The London Free Press in their 2017 Reader's Choice contest. It was an interesting 16 months to say the least! I had the most wonderful staff, but restaurant life was incredibly different than catering, and very challenging. You can read more about the full story in my best selling book “Salt and Sour.” (Click here to get your copy)
After much thought and soul searching, I decided to leave the restaurant world and return to catering. Before doing so, I took a bunch of time off to work on my book, travel and spend time with family, and in Spring 2018, I relaunched Yoda's Kitchen 2.0! I am currently located at 1010 Dundas Street, behind the Booch retail store. You can currently find me at pop ups around the city, monthly cooking classes at Jill’s Table, eating lunch at Curley Brew Co, or delivering Little Green Meals around the city. I love partnering with other local businesses, playing with my dog Gnowee, writing poetry and of course, cooking dinner for friends.