The registered personal chef just loves to cook and considers hearty home-cooking her forte. "I love making soups, hearty meals and comfort foods," said Panasiuk with a wide grin. "I'm not a great baker, but I love getting into gourmet." She also caters private events such as parties, company functions and in-house dinner parties. It isn't hard to imagine Panasiuk working a room full of dinner guests. Her infectious laugh and warm smile quickly puts people at ease and it isn't long before you feel you've known her for years.
Panasiuk has been a life-long Paris resident. Her father, Jim Rowley, spent many years sitting on town council prior to his retirement in 1994. After 30 years in the food industry (she began washing dishes at The Trading Post in Paris at the age of 15), Nancy found herself unemployed. She eventually entered the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada-sponsored Changing Directions program where she participated in aptitude testing. The tests indicated she'd be interested in a wide variety of careers ranging from attorney to hairdressing, but what stood out on the page was cook/chef, a direction she happily pursued. "I've always loved to cook," said Nancy with a laugh. "Years ago a former neighbour, who managed the Grandview Hotel (in the Muskoka area) told me I should be a chef."
With the full support of her husband John, in June 2003 Nancy entered Liaison College in Kitchener where she took both basic and advanced classes. She completed her studies in January 2004, earning top honours in both the academic and cooking components of the program. Rowley-Panasiuk jumped back into class in March of the year and by April she had completed the course for personal chef.
Nancy sings the praises of Liaison College, noting that one difference between a private cooking school and one such as George Brown College are the academic requirements. And at George Brown two year course where as at Liaison 30 weeks.
The two levels of cooking classes concentrated on French culinary cuisine, while the personal chef diploma taught various aspects of customized menu planning, food freezing and provided all the references needed for special dietary needs. In addition, as a member of the Canadian Person Chef Alliance, Nancy is only a mouse click away from all the help she could ever need. "It's great. If you have any questions you just go on-line and you can ask questions of Canada's top chefs," explained Panasiuk.
When asked about the duties of a person chef, Rowley-Panasiuk explained that a personal chef does what their clients would do if the could- plan menus, shop for groceries and prepare the meals for any number of families both large and small. Currently, Panasiuk prepares meals for elderly single clients and married client with children. "I make soups and entrees, which I freeze in individual or family servings," stated Panasiuk, "I'm even preparing a full Christmas dinner for two of my clients." She will also prepare and serve a special dinner party in a client's home, right down to serving the food and washing the dishes.
When asked about her favourite foods to make, she thought long and hard before admitting that she had so many it was impossible to decide. But it wasn't difficult for her to explains what she loved about being a personal chef and caterer. "Working with the people and creating wonderful food is great," she insisted. Panasiuk went on to describe some of her more memorable evenings, such as recently when a group she fed stood and applauded her efforts when the meal was completed.
Although her husband is very supportive of her new career, Nancy admits that he sometimes is ignored in all the rush. "Last weekend he had a bowl of ice cream for dinner because I was too busy with a number of catering jobs," she said with a chuckle, "With all the food in the house you'd think he could have found something a little better." John doesn't complain though. He gets to taste-test many of Nancy's creations, as does many of their neighbours.
Since completing her studies, Panasiuk has been kept busy catering private functions and building her client base. She also spends some evening explaining her profession to the public. At a recent gathering she was asked to address, Nancy stood proudly and announced, "Hi, I'm Nancy Panasiuk and I love to cook."
The Chef Alliance