Meet Vancouver’s Culinary Crusaders
The entrepreneurial foodies mixing things up at Commissary Connect.
March 7, 2017
Strathcona’s Commissary Connect is the co-working kitchen space that’s brought together a ragtag band of local entrepreneurs—from bakers to butchers, former construction workers to home chefs—and created a community around a shared love of food.
1. “I moved to Kelowna in the ’80s to study and to get away from a breakup. I lived in a motel with a kitchenette. I needed to meet people, so I started making these cookies and bringing them to people in my class—they thought they were pretty good!”—Alan Boysen, owner of Cookies of Course
2. “I’d been working in construction for 10-plus years and I was sick of being told what to do. I started smoking ribs in my apartment and had [my partner] Juli test them out for me—she went to culinary school and had been working as a chef. She loved them, so we thought we’d try it out as a career.” —Matt Thomas, co-owner of Georels cured and smoked specialty goods
3. “I didn’t know what I wanted to go back to school for, so I signed up for a baking course. I thought it would be a hobby. It was not a fun hobby course, it was super-intense and hard, and then it ended up I did really well in it. I’d never picked up a piping bag before.”—Emily Upham, owner of When Pigs Fly Pastries
4. “It was a big year for me. I had my daughter [in late 2015] and I thought, I can either go all in with this or go all in as a mom. I’ve decided to do both, which is pretty crazy. She knows how to stir and mix. I’m prepping her young.”—Jenell Parsons, owner of the Pie Hole
5. “I’m a CPA, but to be honest, I didn’t want to just be an accountant. I always wanted to own my own business and the accounting side of it was almost something that I avoided until I got my CPA. As soon as I finished my designation, I got my licence for the food truck.”—Sarb Mund, owner of Commissary Connect and Soho Road Naan Kebab
6. “My office had a bake sale and I had this tiny apartment that only had a toaster oven. My sisters had given me the Bouchon Bakery cookbook and one of them said, ‘There’s a marshmallow recipe in there—you just need a stovetop and a mixer.’ When I made them the first time it was like…how is this the same thing as the crap we’ve been eating all this time?”—Joanna McIntyre, owner of Goodmallows
7. “The beginning was a total whirlwind—I’d never done mass production before coming here. The batch [of salted caramel pecan popcorn] I was making at home would be enough to fit six and a half bags. A single batch here is about 37 bags.”—Sara Karby, owner of Batch Sweet Kitchen
8. “It’s a competitive market. This place gives you a real fighting chance at learning your product and actually knowing if you’ve got a winning ticket.”’—David Khayutin, owner of Crumb Sandwich Shop
9. “For the first year, I was making loaves in my home kitchen, secretly, and I made everything by hand. I didn’t even realize that using a KitchenAid would count as making it by hand, so I literally used my hands for every single batch and made one batch at a time.”—Erin Ireland, owner of To Die For Fine Foods
10. “I started about a year ago when I needed a creative way to fundraise for some vet bills. I decided I would try to make ice cream for friends and family just by donation and throw little fundraisers. It went really well—and the dog is doing great.”—Naomi Arnaut, owner of Say Hello Sweets
11. “When my son turned five he was diagnosed with ADHD. I started looking into natural ways to keep him off medication and everything I read told me to do it through food. I started cooking everything from scratch for my son and eliminating processed foods. He did a complete 180.”—Erika Brown, co-owner of Fitness Foods