Jean Jacques, the chef and founder of Salt N Sear catering, was working as a chef at the Banff Springs Fairmont in 2015 when he decided to pivot his career.
Having travelled the world in search of culinary adventures he could incorporate into his own cooking, he knew he wanted to have full creative freedom to cook for people. Jacques started cooking for friends and family from his home kitchen then found a commissary kitchen when he started Salt N Sear Catering in 2016. Jacques was a one-man-show until his wife Janice stepped in to help with the administrative side of the business and today, the two of them run Salt n Sear together.
We had the opportunity to chat with Jacques to learn more about what it’s like running a business with your spouse, as well as how he’s pivoted his business during COVID. Spoiler: we learned about his epic proposal to Janice in the process!
Tell us a little more about how Salt n Sear got started.
I was working at a hotel in Whistler and at the end of 2016 I moved back home to be closer to my mom in Vancouver at that time. And then that’s when I just started catering out of my condo. From there on I started going to more events and that’s when I found a kitchen space. Once I had the space I officially started Salt n Sear.
You now run Salt n Sear with your wife, Janice. How did she become your business partner?
I think our first real actual data with Janice, I asked her to come and work an event with me and she said, “Sure!” That was the start and it’s grown from there. From that moment on she’s always made Salt N Sear better and more organized. She also works as a full-time dental hygienist so she works there as well as helping me out with the administrative side of the catering business. She’s a busy lady. Yeah.
Do you have advice for any other couples who would be interested in starting a business together?
Work to find that fine balance of what each person is good at doing so you can own what you love and not bump heads. Janice is very organized and great at managing the logistics side of things and allows me to step back and actually be creative again and be in the kitchen where before, when it was just me, I was trying to do it all. We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for her organization. I’m a very creative that I have ideas, but a lot of people wouldn’t understand my ideas but Janice helps bring them to life.
You’ve traveled quite a bit. Do you have any suggestions for where foodies should travel to taste some of the world’s best flavours?
So many places! Well, I’m always going to be biased and say Zambia, you have to go to my home country. It depends on where you are in the country in terms of what you need to taste. A must try dish is called nshima but some other places call it fou fou. It’s like a corn base that’s a staple there. Then you have your vegetables with it or some type of meat. It depends where you are, but there’s some places in the village areas where people will go to the rivers and grab some fish and dry it out. There are a lot of vegetables used and a lot of vegetables in the dishes, which people wouldn’t usually associate with that region. But you might be surprised to know there’s actually a lot of vegetarian, even a lot of fresh vegan dishes that you can get in Zambia. If you ever go to Zambia, definitely drive to Livingston for the Victoria falls, it’s beautiful. That’s where I proposed to Janice, in front of the couple of lions!
Another place I’d recommend is Guadalajara, Mexico. Also Hong Kong, and Portugal. I’ve been to too many countries to pick just one. if you’re open and you want to try, there’s always something good in any country.
How has COVID changed the way that you run your business?
We pivoted to more pickup meals that our customers can reheat or that are dropped off hot. picking Before COVID we would book a lot of weddings, or events at people’s homes and of course COVID changed all that. I found at the beginning of the lockdown, it enabled me to do things I hadn’t been able to, such as just being at home and being able to make bread again. It gave us time to explore, make different things and revamp our outlook on what we could do and what is possible for us. We still put in a hundred percent, we still use all local, we still use fresh ingredients and everything for meals.
I definitely miss interacting with people. People are loving our pick-up meals as well, but we miss the interaction with guests and clients at events and being able to make food and see people be happy.
I love making people happy through food. When my work has impacted someone, they’ll see me and they’ll remember exactly what they loved about the dish I made them. To me, that’s a pat on the back to myself, if someone remembers something thing like that.
Do you have a favorite thing that you love to make?
I’m pretty simple. like making pizza. I like making just simple chicken wings at home and then to make my own sauce. I like barbecue. But then again, a lot of people see my food and they’re like, that’s not simple! I’ve been cooking since I was 13 or 14.