Catherine O’Donnell, or Mom as I like to call her, has become an ambassador for hard work, great food and all around kindness in the Niagara-on-the-Lake community. Some know her from her years at Vintage Inns, others from Andres Wines, some from the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College, but most know her from Willow Cakes & Pastries.
For over 16 years she has catered the weddings, birthdays and showers for many of you. She’s also provided a place of comfort, conversation and delight whilst sitting in her shop.
Now, she’s doing something for herself.
What many of you don’t know is for a number of years Catherine has been coaching and judging some of the country’s/world’s best pastry chefs at competitions around the world. Through grit, determination, and an unmatched work ethic she has balanced being a business owner, mother, grandmother, professor, mentor, coach, and now “Pastry Judge A,” an honour bestowed by the World Association of Chefs.
Pastry Judge A. is a title given to only some of the best and most deserving. Their job is to constantly be in tune with what’s going on in the culinary world and be able to see where perfection lies in another’s product. All ego and bias is set aside while judging these life-changing competitions and NOTL’s humble chef has made her mark.
Not only is this a huge accomplishment, but she is one of only a few women to hold this title or one similar. She has always advocated for equal rights in the workplace, equal respect, equal pay and now, being a face for female chefs everywhere, I hope her message gets stronger and louder.
We’ve spoken many times about this prospect, and who wouldn’t want this job?! Travel the world, eat amazing food, see amazing chefs in their prime. It’s a world stage of skill, class and poise. All presented on a plate. I don’t know anyone more deserving than my mother when it comes to accomplishing the tremendous achievement. She taught me to seize the moment, travel the world and live life without regrets.
Her constant sacrifice for my sister and I, and now my niece, has been tremendous. But she appreciated and loved and helped us realize who we want to be. She is my hero and by far the hardest working person I know. I can’t wait to hear stories of her incredible adventures abroad and wish her all the congratulations a son can muster.
Congratulations Chef Catherine, or as I call her, Chef Mother.
Special to The Lake Report