The Restau­ra­teur

Midtown Post - - Inspire - BY MIJUNE PAK TOP CHEF CANADA JUDGE

Her restau­rant Felix was nom­i­nated for the James Beard Award

The first time I met Janet Zuc­carini was on the set of Top Chef Canada in the au­tumn of 2016. She came into my dress­ing room to in­tro­duce her­self, and I was in­tim­i­dated. At the time, she owned Trat­to­ria Ner­vosa, Gusto 101, Pai North­ern Thai Kitchen and Gusto 54’s Cater­ing and Com­mis­sary Kitchen. I knew her as one of the most suc­cess­ful restau­ra­teurs in Toronto, if not in all of Canada.

It took all of five min­utes of chat­ting to know that she was go­ing to be more than my co-judge. I’ve now had the plea­sure of work­ing along­side Janet for three in­cred­i­ble sea­sons, and she’s be­come not only my col­league, but my men­tor and life­long friend. In this short time, I’ve wit­nessed her pas­sion and drive first-hand as she’s opened an­other three restau­rants in­clud­ing Chubby’s Ja­maican, Kiin and, of course, Felix Trat­to­ria in Los An­ge­les, one of North Amer­ica’s hottest restau­rants last year. Nat­u­rally, she has more in the works.

She’s cre­ated an em­pire and man­ages over 1,000 em­ploy­ees, many of whom have stayed with her for years. I’ve met her clos­est friends and con­fi­dantes, and they are truly an ex­ten­sion of her pas­sion and gen­uine na­ture. Re­cently, I asked her what it feels like to be re­spon­si­ble for the liveli­hood of 1,000 plus peo­ple, and she put it sim­ply: “I am very lucky and hon­oured.”

This is the kind of per­son that she is, one who knows it takes a vil­lage to main­tain suc­cess, es­pe­cially in an in­dus­try as volatile as the restau­rant world, and I have noth­ing but the ut­most re­spect and love for her.

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