I"m a little late getting this month's post out. I blame the weather, because, well I can!
This month I have the pleasure of introducing you to the beauty, the brains and culinary wizardry behind The Brag Bag, Laura Key. I had the fortune to meet Laura in an Uptown Saint John business group and I knew right away that she was one of those good natured, clever, upbeat people that I'd be lucky to have in my corner. And then I tasted her food, and I knew that all her hard work, passion and drive would not go to waste! Seriously: DELICIOUS! It's that magical kind of food that tastes awesome and make you feel great. Magic, I tells ya!
And now that I've made myself hungry, I'm going to go make a snack and you can read Laura's interview for yourselves!
1. Tell me a little about yourself.
Well, I am a 34 year old mother to a beautiful 5 year old girl and step mother to a handsome 8 year old boy and partner to a talented, good looking and wonderfully supportive singer-songwriter fella. We are both paramedics here in the city and enjoy raising our blended little family in Uptown Saint John.
I started my whole food catering business in September 2012 with a Metric tonne of support from my family and Enterprise Saint John. I enrolled in their KickStart program and the rest is history. I cannot over emphasize how much ESJ guided me through the start up phase of my business. They are an invaluable resource to this city's entrepreneurial community. Thank you Mark Breen, Michelle Lodge, and Janet Scott for all that you do everyday.
2. What drew you to cooking? And how did you end up focusing on this type of cooking?
I can thank both my grandmothers for fostering my love of cooking. They were ever so patient with me, letting me make messes and mistakes in the kitchen from a very young age. I learned the importance of measurements and reading recipes, but also how important improvisation and creativity can be. I find myself teaching my kids these same lessons now. It feels like my grandmother's amazing gift to me is transcending my generation and spilling over into theirs.
I am drawn to this whole food, scratch cooking style for a few reasons I suppose. I get a huge sense of joy and satisfaction from feeding people offerings that are wholesome and nutritious, and of course delicious. I also find this style of cooking very nostalgic. Being able to take a whole, raw chicken and make that one bird last my family 3-4 meals by knowing how to properly dress, roast, pick and boil it reminds me of how my grandmothers would have fed their families 50 years ago.
3. if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This is a loaded question! I LOVE soooo many things. If the question was "What would I eat for the rest of my life without consequence" it would have to be homemade white bread, fresh out of the oven with fresh butter, never margarine. But in the real world, I would have to say eggs. Boiled, shirred, sunny side, over easy, or poached. They are wholesome, versatile, hearty, and pure culinary magic when cooked perfectly. Okay, maybe I have a weird thing for eggs?!
4. If you could give people one cooking tip, what would it be?
Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid of recipes and don't be afraid of dishes. (The natural nemesis of any chef!) Run a sink of hot soapy water, whether you have a dishwasher or not, get your ingredients and tools assembled, which in French cooking is called 'mise en place' and get to it. Let loose and use what you have! If your recipe calls for fresh basil and all you have is dried Italian herbs, who cares?! Try it out! It might be delicious. If you are not sure of a method or ingredient, Google it. Cooking should be fun, and the reward is not only creating something delicious, but building up the confidence of your inner chef to learn more about the art of feeding yourself, and feeding yourself well!
5. Do you have a bucket list? What is one of the items on your list?
I have not yet physically written a Bucket List, but having whole foods restaurant in Uptown Saint John would be at the top of that list, along with traveling to some of the world's culinary hubs like France, Italy, India and Thailand.
6. What advice do you have for small-business-owner wanna-bes? What is your biggest challenge?
If you feel you have an idea that can be developed into a service that feeds your soul and your community, go for it. There is true happiness to be had in being your own boss, and there are resources available to make your dreams reality. (Insert additional Enterprise Saint John plug here..lol) You need to be tough, confident, and passionate. Being all those things all the time would have to be my biggest challenge. You will have days when you don't feel strong or confident. You will find yourself needing help. Take it. Push through. Rely on your support system to get through the hard times to reap the benefits of the good times. As a not-so-wise blue fish once said, "Just Keep Swimming"-Dory. This quote is written in BIG letters in my kitchen office.
7. Where do you see The Brag Bag in 5 years?
In 5 years, I want The Brag Bag to be a food service company that is recognized not only for our delicious and wholesome dishes, but also as being a leader in efforts to better our community through food. I'm not sure what that means just yet, but hey, that's part of the excitement of this journey we are on!
8. Anything you’d like to add?
Thank you Pam for thinking of me and my business for this wonderful blog. You are such an inspiration to me as a beautiful, successful and driven entrepreneur of our city. Plus, dressing up in your clothes and playing model for the day was totally AWESOME!
Also, thank you Jeremy Dunsmore, for being my rock. Your patience, love and support knows no bounds. Everything The Brag Bag is and everything it will become is because you are there, with your steady hand on my back telling me I can.
And as always, I'd like to thanks Alicia Robichaud Photography for the gorgeous shots of Laura!