Pot & Pantry - Robin
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I love to cook and bake, and owning a kitchen store means I can talk about those things all day. I love getting to know people through what they're cooking. I learn their histories, traditions, backgrounds and passions. It's an amazing way to connect. And I love learning and sharing what I've learnt, so being able to swap recipes and techniques also inspires me to try new dishes at home.
I also love to travel, and bring all those different flavours and cooking techniques back to Ottawa. It challenges me to source tools and ingredients for international cuisine to make it easier for Ottawans to find exactly what they need to cook.We're heading to Italy and Malta this year, so be prepared to see more Italian ingredients and tools in the shop this summer.
What inspired you to open a gourmet/ kitchenware store?
I worked in another kitchen store for many years and loved it. I started there part-time in order to have a social outlet while I was running my own business, Morsel, which started as dessert catering and evolved into an artisan caramel company. I've always had a entrepreneurial instincts. My parents owned their own business and both my sisters work for themselves.We're a total DIY family. I love the challenge of working for myself, and pretty much everything else about retail. And sometimes you just need to jump into life with both feet, that's what we did with Pot & Pantry. We found the spot, signed the lease and opened our doors in 5 weeks. And, I should add, we got married 2 weeks before signing the lease. It was a busy year!
When you aren’t focused on kitchenware or food, what do you do for fun?
My husband Jun and I love hunting for vintage, retro, antique and pre-loved everything. We love travelling and exploring, and a way that we can still do that is by taking short road-trips around Ontario, Quebec and the northern U.S.A. stopping at all the little towns. Every one has an antique store packed with stories and memories, it's like a treasure hunt. And, it's a great way to learn about the community and ask where the best bakery is in the neighbourhood, because the best part about travelling is definitely the food!
Where did you get that fantastic pineapple wallpaper?
That was a mission. The lovely Stephania of Spruce Design helped design my space. She really somehow saw inside my head and made it into reality for me. We got very excited talking about wallpaper, and she suggested a welcoming type of pattern, and did you know the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality? Well to me that seemed like such a natural choice, since what I'm trying to do is help people create delicious meals and homes where they can entertain and receive guests, and feel comfortable and welcome themselves. Plus I want everyone to feel welcome in here. So we found it online, without ever even seeing a sample and it took forever to arrive. It was a bit scary, because it's such an investment, but I'm so glad we did it.
You sell a lot of Canadian made goods. How important is it to you to feature them?
If I'm looking for a new product, I always try to find a local, then Canadian company first. What's most important to me is being connected to the process. I love meeting the makers, or the people working to create better environments for international makers. I think we can do a big thing by respecting that good quality, ethically made goods cost more, and they're worth it.
Has Ottawa always been home?
I'm an Albertan by birth, but I grew up in Ottawa. I left for 11 years, getting educated at McGill in Montreal, then heading cross country to BC where I inhabited the tiny island of Bowen and ate my weight in amazing croissants at the bakery where I worked. But when winter came my friend and I bought one way tickets to Thailand and I subsequently spent the next 6 years travelling and working all over the world. After travelling South East Asia, I met my husband, Jun, in Australia, and we just kept going. We lived in London England for a while, where he's from. We also spent almost a year backpacking and volunteering in South America (Yes, what they say about the beef in Argentina is true!), and we lived in Tokyo as well. And if anyone wants travel tips for Japan, please, please, please come an pick my brain, it's an absolutely incredible place. Completely mind-blowing. And you should go! Anyway, after all that (and a bit more), we came home for a couple weddings and just kind-of never left. We love Ottawa, and of all the big cities and small towns we've lived in, it's in this city where we find the perfect balance of culture, quiet, access to the outdoors and community.
What is you favourite thing to cook/ bake?
I love baking it's just completely creative and fun for me. At least once a week I try a new cookie or muffin recipe. I did learn to cook Japanese food when we lived in Japan, and it's kind-of our comfort food. But Mexican is definitely my personal favourite. I started cooking dinner for my family by myself when I was 11, Wednesday was my night. And for tacos and enchiladas, I could follow the recipes, and the basic ingredients were easy to find. Now I'm a bit more adventurous, but they're still my favourite flavours.
Le Creuset or Staub? :)
You know, I've now had the privilege to use both in my own kitchen, and I can honestly say, this Le Creuset advocate has turned to Staub. I mean they both make exceptional french ovens, and I think that every kitchen could use such a versatile piece to cook with. But the Staub has something a little extra; they've designed their lids to be flat with small bumps in the top for constant braising. It means when the heat hits the surface it drops back down in condensation and seriously produced the most evenly moist dishes. Plus the lid, with it's stainless steel knob in oven safe to a higher temperature versus the Le Creuset phenolic knob, which is great for baking bread. And have you seen the colours?! Gorgeous muted and dramatic tones, so very Paris.
If you could outfit a kitchen for one Canadian celebrity who would it be?
Oh gosh, I am so not a celebrity kind-of-person...I wouldn't even know where to start.
As a business owner. what keeps you up at night?
I'm always trying to find ways to do more, and do things better. And I could do so much more if I didn't need so much sleep! Haha. But really, we have so much in the works for Pot & Pantry, it's pretty exciting. We'll be introducing more workshops in the store about cooking and bartending this coming year. And you might see the caramels be re-launched into the brand. Plus, we're working hard with our Upper Elgin neighbours to host more events and let Ottawa see how many cool independent businesses are in our neighbourhood. Especially with the upcoming 2019 construction, the neighbourhood will need the support of our customers to get through, so we'll be working together to attract more people and keep things exciting. I mean, the street being torn up is definitely a stressor, but it'll be so great when it's all done.
What is your favourite place on Elgin to relax for a coffee or a bite to eat?
I spend quite a a few mornings in the Ministry of Coffee before the shop opens for the day meeting with friends, entrepreneurs and fellow Upper Elgin business owners. Just be aware their muffins are highly addictive, and I will wrestle you for the last Raspberry Chocolate if I need to ;-)