Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gals We Admire: Alka Graham

Alka Graham loves coming up with new brunch ideas that have an Indian twist to them.  And this certainly bodes well for customers of Frankly Eatery, the brunch spot in Toronto's trendy Leslieville that Graham is chef and co-owner of. 

Name: Alka Graham
Profession: Chef
Twitter handle: @franklyeatery

Describe your typical work day, from start to finish
Get my son ready to be dropped off at his grandparents. Go into work to prep for the day. Open up Frankly Eatery for lunch. Close down Frankly after lunch and prep for evening service. Re-open Frankly for dinner service. Close Frankly. Go home and hope my husband fell asleep on the couch so that I can see him for 10 minutes before he has to be in bed.

When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
When I was a kid I remember really wanting to be a neurologist. I was really into medicine and science as a kid but unfortunately grew to realize I had no aptitude for the sciences. But I still have a love for medicine and in fact my good friend gave me a set of medical encyclopedias for my birthday which I reference more often than is probably normal for a layperson.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
The part I enjoy most about my job is coming up with new brunch ideas. We are a small bistro in downtown Toronto that offers an Indian twist to brunch. And this fusion can be tough at times because you really want to be able to marry the flavours of east and west so they complement each other without the bold Indian spices dominating the entire dish. It’s a creative challenge that I really love!

What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your profession?
The biggest challenge I find is keeping a work-life balance. I was really starting to burn out and missed my son terribly so we decided to close two days instead of just one during the week. It can also be tough to keep in touch with friends since I work all weekend long. I now make a point of organizing a dinner or even just a quick coffee with friends at least once a week to catch up.

Do you believe you had a "calling" for your profession?
I don’t know that I had a calling for my profession. In fact I really didn’t start to cook until I was in my twenties. But once I started cooking I couldn’t stop. I love the fact that there is always something new to learn whether it be technique, plating design or just a new gadget. I could probably read cook books all day. It’s this constant learning that I love about being a chef.

What are the three most important pieces of career advice you would give to other Canadian Career Gals?
Never give upI worked for many years in the corporate world before I finally made the leap into starting my own restaurant. And there were times it felt like a dream but one day the stars aligned and here I am. Anything is possible you just have to really want it.

No regretsBefore my brother and I opened the restaurant we both discussed that should this new venture not work out we would not look back with any regrets. Regardless of whether the restaurant worked we agreed that by just opening it we had fulfilled our dream of owning our own business. With that in mind we were already a success.

Maintain work-life balanceAs I mentioned above finding work-life balance is important to your well-being. When you are over stressed or burnt out you ultimately become ineffectual at your job. To me it’s important to get away from your work – I find that when I have a chance to step away I’m far more creative and flowing with new ideas.

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