Interview conducted by Chanèle McFarlane
Photography by Keidi Janz

Vanessa Gianfrancesco has always felt happiest in the kitchen. From a young age, she truly enjoyed spending her summer vacations inside learning how to prepare family recipes (and even experimenting with a few of her own) while most kids preferred to be playing outside. She may not have known it at the time but she was ultimately setting the foundation for the successful career she leads today.

As the executive chef, instructor and general director at Chef En Vous, host of Gusto TV’s One World Kitchen and the resident chef on Breakfast Television Montreal, Vanessa is living her wildest culinary dreams. Interestingly, her career almost went in a completely different direction as she was originally going to go to law school! Lucky for us (and our tastebuds!), she decided to follow her heart, enroll at a prestigious culinary institute and establish herself in the food and hospitality industry.

In addition to her numerous TV roles, Vanessa is also the Founder and Creator of Cooking With V, where she shares a variety of delicious Italian-inspired recipes. Oh, and we can’t forget that she recently published a One World Kitchen cookbook! There’s no doubt that Vanessa has A LOT on her plate but what we love about her is that she’s always smiling, as she chooses to live life by taking each day as it comes.

Keep reading as Vanessa dishes out some invaluable advice on everything from standing out in a male-dominated field, learning to delegate and the importance of living in the moment!

Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade? 

Being in culinary school one of the biggest challenges was being able to mark my place as a woman! It is a male dominated field and being one of the four women in a whole class meant that I needed to prove myself even more. It was easy to be discouraged, although I decided to take this opportunity to show just how different and unique I could be in the program. I decided to be me, just plain Vanessa, and it ended up working out in a way I thought it never would. I beat the odds that many told me I couldn't. It made me a stronger person!

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After that first year, how did you scale your business and continue to grow?

In order for your business to grow you need to learn how to delegate. That is something that for me is still quite challenging because I would rather do something myself than ask for help. Although, if you want to grow more efficiently it is important that you find the right people to help you! In my case I hired a publicist (Amira de Vera from Project Four Relations) and she helped me grow as a person and as a business. That being said, in a situation where I thought I would lose control, I actually gained it by being able to manage things better and move in the right direction. Just make sure that you delegate to the experts!!

How do you measure success in your career?

Growing up often times you get asked what it is you want to do in life. The expected answer is something job related- a title that helps people categorize you. When people asked me that question, my answer was I want to be happy because for me that is the definition of success...waking up in the morning happy to go to work. And realistically speaking, being able to do something that not only makes you happy but also earns you a living is true success!

"Do not be afraid to ask for something... those who do not ask, do not know!"  

How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?

All my life it has been about following my gut, and for me that was the risk. Had I remained on my path to becoming a lawyer things would have been safe and there would never have been any unknown. Although, there is nothing I am more grateful for than having listened to my heart and changed my career path! Without having taken that risk I may have never found my happy place!

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Was there ever a moment that you questioned your decision to become an entrepreneur? How did you overcome it?

ince I made the leap of faith I never looked back! I am someone that lives in the momen. Same goes with age, I was never one to say I wish I was still in my 20s. Those days were great, I enjoyed them and now it's onto the next chapter!

What would you say has been the biggest mistake you've made and how did you rectify it?

Listening to other people's advice! As much as I appreciate the people that want to elp out, quite frankly their motives have been at times questionable. That is why you need to make sure that you surround yourself with people that support and love each other!

What is your best negotiation tip?

Do not be afraid to ask for something... those who do not ask do not know! And always be willing to walk away from something, this way you keep your emotions out of it!

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What is a personal or professional challenge that you're faced with right now?

Being busy! It’s a good problem because I could not see my life any other way! Although, there is a reality to this; it gets busier and busier, and sometimes you find yourself juggling a bunch of things at once. I try to keep as focused as possible and take one day at a time! I try not to look ahead too much and simply take each day individually! And most importantly I prioritize the people and things that are most important to me!

What is one thing you wish you knew before becoming your own boss?

You cannot control everything...you just can't and things have a way of working themselves out! My mom reminds me all the time that there is a solution for everything :)


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