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 2016 Young Alumna Award

 Emma BEQAJ'06

Emma BEQAJ has loved cooking since before she even started school, when she would help out in her mother's kitchen. By Grade 7, she was holding formal dinner parties for her Branksome friends. So it's not surprising that four years ago, she successfully started Emma's Eatery Catering, serving meals and buffets for groups of people in homes, at corporate events, at cottages and at weddings.

Since making that leap of faith, Emma has steadily built a client roster that now includes the National Ballet School and Branksome. And she is getting plenty of notice. She has appeared on CityTV Breakfast Television, Global News The Morning Show and Rogers TV daytime. Last year, her cooking skills got the stamp of approval from the expert judges of Food Network Canada's series Chopped Canada, where she won her episode against three other chefs.

After Branksome, Emma attended Acadia University in Nova Scotia, studying languages, then entered chef school at George Brown College in Toronto. During school and afterward, she worked at a prominent Italian restaurant, but soon found that "the restaurant industry was not for me."

So she went out on her own. "Catering is more than just the food," she says. "It's always different venues, so you're creating the entire ambiance for an event with the linens, the décor, the flowers, the table settings. It's something I'd always thought about and it seemed like the right step."

She regularly consults her collection of some 95 cookbooks – "I read them as literature" – and hopes to write one herself someday. Then there's broadcasting: "I would love to have my own TV show."

Emma has used her skills to help support two Toronto charities. And she keeps on cooking. "I just love how food brings people together."


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