Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is chef and catering pro Emma Beqaj, who was recently named the winner of Chopped Canada and runs boutique catering and event company Emma’s Eatery. We caught up with her to find out what inspires her work and where she loves to wine and dine in Toronto…
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I run Emma’s Eatery Catering – a full-service boutique catering and event company in Toronto.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
I grew up in a house where my mom set a dinner table every night complete with candles and placemats. Food was always the connector in our family. Entertaining has been in my blood from the get-go – I hosted my first dinner party at 12 years old. Between my mom and my grandma, cooking just came naturally. I was that irritating kid that was always in the kitchen “trying to help,” but I truly just couldn’t get enough. It was always where I wanted to be.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
The most memorable milestone of my career just happened – I won Chopped Canada!
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
Five years right now seems like the easiest to visualize. I hope that I will have pushed Emma’s Eatery further up into the Toronto catering scene, creating the need for a larger commercial kitchen, office, full-time staff, etc.
Ten, twenty years from now, I will still be catering. I just don’t think I will ever be able to stop. I love the challenge, the new opportunities and I love being some place different every event I work. I am pretty lucky to truly enjoy what I do every single day.
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Hustle. My Dad’s motto, and it is really true. The harder you hustle, the more opportunities come your way. And surround yourself with good, positive people that understand your business and your vision.
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
Every year I like to donate my time and food to a couple of charities locally. The Toronto Toy Tea, which supports women & children’s shelters from abuse in Toronto and Willow Breast & Hereditary Cancer support.
7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
A major challenge that I’ve had to overcome is how to be tough in business – it unfortunately doesn’t come naturally.
8. What does the word notable mean to you?
Something worth noting – something remarkable.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
My two favourite spots and my go-tos are BUCA Osteria & Enoteca and Campagnolo.
I used to work at BUCA and I still can’t get enough of it! Rob Gentile was one of the best mentors for a young George Brown apprentice and I love going back to where I feel my cooking career really started. Campagnolo just feels like home. The food is killer, the vibe is always fun, and the best seat in the house is at the chef’s bar.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
I love country and I love top 40 – no shame. Sorry and Hello are up there right now.
3. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
@melissaandreinc – her pictures are insane and she is hugely talented. As someone who loves event and party planning, she just takes it to a whole other level.
4. What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Italy, I just never tire of fresh pasta, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. I also recently visited Kenya – what an amazing country; I discovered a serious appreciation for animals when I was there.
I really want to visit Iceland. My grandma is Icelandic and I think the food culture there is really interesting. I also want to get to Sweden, specifically dying to go to the restaurant Faviken.
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
When my family or friends are all together and I am working.
6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
7. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
I spend a lot of money eating out – but it’s research right!? Car maintenance…
8. And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Success is being truly happy , proud of what I do, and proud of who I am.