Get ready to be inspired! Vanessa Gianfrancesco is one of Canada’s fastest rising culinary star’s and she is our #FEMMEFEATUREFRIDAY this week! Vanessa has been establishing herself as one to watch in the food and hospitality realm since her days as a culinary student. For as long as Vanessa can remember, she has naturally always been drawn to the art of food and cooking. She is a beautiful example of what it means to find your purpose in the things you love. Today, Vanessa’s curiosity and creativity are manifested in the delicious original recipes and food related tips she brings into our kitchens and onto our plates. When Vanessa isn’t in the kitchen, you can find this lovely girl entertaining her friends & family, home decorating, gardening, making flower arrangements, hot yoga or travelling.

A graduate of the prestigious Montréal culinary institute, Institut de tourisme et d'hôtellerie du Québec (ITHQ), you may recognize Vanessa from one of today’s #1 morning shows Breakfast Television Montréal. As the resident chef, she provides a variety of recipes and meal ideas to viewers across Québec. You can also catch Vanessa sharing her expertise on CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show and her love for Italian cuisine on Gusto television series One World Kitchen. Vanessa most recently made her debut on the popular American television lifestyle show Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel. Additionally, Vanessa is the founder and creator of the lifestyle website Cooking With V which is in honor of her passion for food! Her impressive resume does not end there either! In conjunction with her show One World Kitchen, Vanessa has published her recipes in the cookbook One World Kitchen: The Cookbook, which is authored by President and CEO of Gusto, Chris Knight. If you’re interested in trying out some of Vanessa’s mouthwatering recipes, check out her monthly features in Canada’s largest magazine dedicated to Italian-Canadians called Panoram Italia. Vanessa has also partnered with many brands including Walmart Canada, Dole Canada, Barilla Pasta, Becel, Butterball Turkey Canada, California Prunes, GoGo Quinoa, Halo Top Creamey, Casper, Reitman’s Canada, and Call It Spring to name a few! Currently, this lady boss is the executive chef, instructor and general director at Chef En Vous.

Vanessa’s undeniable zest for life, adventurous soul and kind heart have taken her straight to the top in her industry. What we love the most about this incredible woman is that her success is a result of striving to be happy and not of only achieving specific goals. She shows us that we can all sprinkle a little more happiness in to the world by choosing to pursue what we enjoy doing the most. We admire the confidence Vanessa exuded by believing in herself and not letting the opinions of her superiors dictate her path in a male-dominated business. Vanessa has made it clear that her voice cannot be silenced and her message to girls everywhere is to remember to always express your thoughts, opinions and dreams. Thank you Vanessa for showing the world that the future is most definitely female!

Written by Alessia Rotino

Artwork by Chloe Bruderer (@chloeheartsart)

Artwork by Chloe Bruderer (@chloeheartsart)

We love food! Tell us about your passion for cooking and culinary art. What ultimately made you decide to pursue culinary school over law school?

I LOVE food too! One of the things I noticed on my personal journey was that I found myself rushing through things, trying to finish my school work just so I could go home and cook! Or better yet I would dream of the days that I could go to the market, buy a whole bunch of fresh produce and recipe test! And let’s not even go into the entertaining, as nothing made me happier than to cook for the people I love!

All this to say, cooking was a passion first and it wasn’t until I went to culinary school that I began to respect the profession of food and saw it for the art that it really is. During that time, I realized that I was able to fuse food and work and that is truly when the story of me began!

What makes pursuing your dreams so rewarding? Why is it important for women to dream big?

I think the idea here is to do something that makes you happy. It is so cliché,I know, but when you do something that truly makes you smile from the inside and out and does not feel like work you know you are in the right place. For myself, when I am given the opportunity to earn money doing something I love there is no greater reward than that! I encourage all women to chase that dream - the dream of being happy! Do not listen to all the noise around you, focus on your goal and do not stop until you get there!

When was the last time you felt you were being challenged mentally and emotionally? What was going through your head and how did you overcome it?

I give this example all the time because it truly was the most challenging moment of my life! I had just finished my bachelor’s degree and decided that I wanted to go to culinary school, something that I wanted to do for no one but ME.

Ready to take on this new challenge, I was very excited and eager to learn. However, when I attended my first class, I soon realized that I was one of four women in a class of 30. My biggest challenge was being able to handle the rough, male dominated kitchen environment. I had to put my emotions aside and I had to push through. The teachers often told me that I should go into pastry because it was an easier and more artistic path and that it would be a better fit for me, as a woman in the field. That is when I knew that I had to demonstrate that I could be a great chef no matter my gender. Let’s face it, what better way to overcome a challenge than to push through and succeed! I not only succeeded in my class, but I graduated with honours and more importantly I was able to take my degree and turn it into a career!

What does “using your voice,” mean to you? Why do you think it’s important for women to stand up and use their voices?

When I was younger, my mom would always tell me that my voice would either get me into big trouble or serve me well! I decided to take the ‘’serve me well’’ route. I was always the one to speak my truth and while some loved it, others didn’t. But for me, using my voice and listening to that inner compass superseded all! I’ve seen such an evolution with how women can express themselves in the past decade. Although we as women still have many more obstacles to overcome until we are truly at an equal playing field, with just my own experiences I’ve noticed that I am being heard much more than in the past. That being said women should NEVER hold back from being expressive. We should treat life like an open dialogue and I know that the world can benefit from more women speaking LOUDER!

Being on television for me is like standing up in front of a huge crowd with a microphone, it truly is something that I consider a privilege! Therefore, as much fun as this is for me, I do take it very seriously because what I say can have a huge impact on someone’s perception. My biggest piece of advice is for us to share our thoughts and opinions as long as they have an honest intention.

What’s your definition of a YGTGirl?

A YGTGirl in my eyes is a woman who embraces her passion and makes it a part of her life. She embodies strength, power and perseverance and doesn’t stop when the going gets tough. She overcomes the obstacles around her (they only make her stronger) and she laughs hard, and cries when she needs to and exudes not only physical beauty but more importantly, INNER beauty. This makes her shine like the sun when she walks into a room. She comes in all shapes, sizes and colours and has an entourage that supports her and one that she motivates with her own success in finding happiness!