Tracey Black started at Epicuria 15 years ago making sandwiches – fast forward to present day and she is now the owner and Executive Chef of the same establishment. With a reputation for great food, flavours and fresh ingredients Epicuria is a fixture of the Ottawa food scene catering  wonderful foodie events and providing take home solutions for busy families who still want to eat healthy, homemade, fresh food. Thank you so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule to answer a few questions Tracey!

(Simply Fresh) What inspired you to start cooking?

 (Tracey) My venture into a career in cooking came about by chance really.  There was never any doubt that I always loved to eat.  I was the girl in high school who would eat my lunch from home plus get a helping of whatever the student chefs were cooking up in the school cafeteria.  My family was also very focused on gardening, fishing, hunting and preserving food.  We even raised our own pig and cow each year on my aunt’s farm. 

 In high school I worked as a pantry cook at The Keg but it was not until I was filling in for a few shifts in the galley of a ship, after I graduated from University, did a career in food occur to me.  I realized it was the pace, the deadlines and the multi tasking of the job that really appealed to me.  I love thinking fast on my feet and doing something physical and creative at the same time.  I am fortunate to have the skill to see the big picture and focus on details at the same time.  Food just fit my strengths.

 In addition to catering for corporate events and weddings, Epicuria also specializes in quality take home food and frozen entrees. As your bio states, you often take full advantage of the take home meals – what are some of your family’s favourites? 

 I am so fortunate to be able to take home Epicuria’s meals most weeknights, not only to make my life easier but to experience our product the same way our clients do.  It serves the purpose to quality test and keeps my life sane.  The menu changes every week so there are not many repeats.  I love anything with mushrooms and my kids are huge fans of our asian noodle salad, flank steak, cheese scones and our cookies of course.

 What was the first dish you learned to make?

 I am not sure if I can focus in on one particular dish learned but there were many cooking experiences as a child that really stand out for me.  Hot smoking trout with my grandfather in the BC interior, and learning to can salmon in a pressure cooker were big lessons.  The first meal I made for my family was beef stroganoff using egg noodles, ground beef and Campbells cream of mushroom soup.  I learned it in Home Ec and boy did I love that dish. 

 What makes Epicuria ( different from other Ottawa area caterers or fine food stores?

 What is really important to me besides great food is running a really solid business.  What we do in catering and take-home food is not easy and chaos is potentially around every corner.  Epicuria has been in existence for 20 years and over that time we have systemized almost every aspect of our business and rarely sway from what we know we are really good at.  Sound management, a dedicated team and financial prudence are necessary to make it in the food business.  I like to think that this is the backbone of our longevity and solid reputation in Ottawa.

What was the most unique event you have ever catered?

 Good question.  I am not sure if any one particular event stands out for me.  We have catered an Alice in Wonderland themed event, a wedding where the food and décor were in miniature.  There have been events on islands, in a gilded mansion, and offices under construction.  I always tend to remember the make shift kitchens we have to work out of such as closets, hallways, photo copier rooms, loading docks and even a barn.

Thanks again Tracey for such thoughful answers!

Epicuria is located on 419 Mackay Street just off of Beechwood Ave.