Tell us about your company:
Urban Acorn is a Toronto-based catering company rooted in an appreciation for art, music, and using food as a dialogue for social change and building stronger communities. Just like ideas, acorns begin small with the hopes of becoming something big, strong and meaningful. Our specialty is 'flexitarian' which is a mostly plant-based approach to cuisine, that allows us to create menus for both omnivores and vegans. Our food philosophy is that Food should unite, not divide people.
Why did you start your company? *
I became a personal chef shortly after my first was born so I could spend more time at home with my child than if I worked in a restaurant. Four years later, this morphed into a catering company when I met my now partner and we launched the business together. She was really interested in food as a tool for communication and we built this company to help us get a better look at the connection and belonging in action. With every social event or wedding, we catered, we got a window into the nuances that make each family, team or community unique and how this impacts the food they eat and the choices they make. We had this amazing opportunity to encourage dialogue between strangers and launched a monthly Supper Club series geared towards getting people from different walks of life together around the table and enjoy each other's company over a 5-course meal. We loved these events and when COVID hit we migrated them online with wild success.
Tell us about your family! *
I have a blended family and everyone has a big personality. Addison, my 12-year-old daughter from my previous marriage has a big heart; they are self-aware and courageous in a quiet low-key kind of way. My two younger daughters with my current partner are energic toddlers that keep us on my toes. Isobel (almost 4 years old) is a natural-born leader who makes friends on a dime, bright, funny and affectionate and unafraid of challenges. our youngest Eloise (almost 3 years old) marches to the beat of her own drum; she is very loving, creative, fearless, and loud (despite her tiny stature). My partner Marie is a force of nature; energetic, smart, honest, strategic, innovative, and absolutely hilarious. We both chuckle at the absurdity of our lives and get right back to doing what we need to do.
What was the hardest thing about becoming a dad? *
It's a hard thing to pinpoint as each time I became a dad new challenges emerged. With the birth of Addison, there was a lot of uncertainty in my marriage which resulted in divorce shortly after their birth. At the time I was much younger and unsure of myself as a man. With Isobel, my partner had some life-threatening complications that resulted in her being hospitalized for several weeks before and after giving birth. The baby arrived a month early and at the tail end of our wedding season. We had to lean on friends and family to help us move through the first few months so my partner could get back on her feet. With Eloise, some of the same challenges that existed with Isobel's birth were compounded and having back-to-back babies was hard to balance along with an increasingly busy business.
Has being a dad impacted your career? How?
The culinary world is not a family-friendly industry; it's very demanding with long grueling hours, little to no benefits or pay and an expectation that you will miss every holiday, birthday or special event in your personal life. Many of my peers who have children/are married are divorced for these many reasons. Part of why I've remained self-employed is to implement more balance into my life by supporting my partner's career, being present for my kids and playing an active role in my eldest daughter's life. Of course, choosing to take the less glamourous work of catering (sandwich platters anyone) over working for a 5-star restaurant has impacts to my career. My focus has been on being in competition with myself, learning, growing and continuously becoming better at my craft.
What's one thing you've learned from your child/ children? *
Addison has taught me about giving people space; Isobel has taught me about my partner (she's a bit of a mini version). She's also taught me how to nurture a big spirit instead of taming them. Eloise has taught me about myself and my interactions with her have lead me to investigate my own emotions.
How has being a dad made you a better/ different leader? *
Being a dad has pushed me to use more simplified approaches to my work and to not stress over little things if the overall picture is great. It has shown me just how much perseverance I possess in the face of extreme exhaustion (like working at 5 am for a 12-hour shift, getting home only quickly grab dinner and take a walk with my family to the park!)