From growing up in a cozy suburb of Richmond, B.C. to becoming one of the country’s most recognizable celebrity chefs, it goes without saying that Nicole Gomes has a fiery story to tell.

Honing her skills in places like Sydney, Australia and the south of France, she eventually returned to the west coast of Canada and secured a highly sought after position in the kitchen at the famed restaurant, West, which at the time was run by the now-notable restaurateur, David Hawksworth.

This was the late 1990s and she was the first woman who had ever been hired in this particular kitchen. Though things have changed dramatically in the restaurant industry since then, the idea of sexism in the workplace is more a topical point of discussion than ever.

“It’s obvious we are treated differently,” says Gomes on being a woman in the culinary industry. “Especially when you become a woman in a strong position, we need to push a little harder and maybe that’s why for me, in particular, I can be a little more assertive,” she says.

Following her time at Catch restaurant in Calgary in the early 2000s, Gomes moved on to Mercato in Mission where she took her first executive chef role and helped open the still-successful Italian eatery. After a year helming Mercato’s kitchen, Gomes took a break to take several business courses in hopes of opening a business of her own, and Nicole Gourmet catering was born in 2006.

Around the fifth year owning and operating Nicole Gourmet, Gomes was finally starting to have a taste of independent business success. “It was basically that moment when I [finally] got out of debt,” she explains. “I was able to refocus my energy on what I needed to do to really grow my business and take things to the next level.”

As the catering company continued to find success in Calgary, handling all sorts of high-end events, both large and small, the chef decided to to leave her business for a month in the fall of 2013 to compete in the third season of the chef competition TV series Top Chef Canada.

“The experience of watching yourself on television after filming something like that is really interesting. It really is a self reflective process,” says Gomes, chuckling. “ I mean, did I really appear that way? Did I say that? Or, whoa. I seem high energy.”

Once the season aired in 2014, viewers watched and came to love Gomes for her “Tazmanian Devil” persona in the kitchen. After finishing in fifth place, she may not have been crowned the winner, but her appearance in the series itself led to positive effects on her business.

From there, Gomes began developing her first brick-and-mortar concept, Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver, which opened in 2016. The fried chicken restaurant proved popular with Calgarians and kept Gomes and her co-owner/sister Francine Gomes, busy until the producers of Top Chef Canada came calling again for the All-Stars season they were getting set to film.

Though she didn’t say yes to the alumni season immediately, Gomes was eventually swayed and headed back to Toronto to compete against eleven other chefs including Calgary’s Connie Desousa and Vancouver’s Trevor Bird.

“I was definitely way more calm the second time around. Everyone that came back was definitely more confident. You’re being invited back for this type of season, we weren’t younger and auditioning anymore.”

The season finished airing this past June and saw Gomes slice, dice and sear her way past her competitors seemingly with ease. She is now the first of many things: Top Chef Canada: All-Stars champion, current title holder of “Canada’s Top Chef” and the first Calgarian to ever win the series.

Needless to say, this Canadian Top Chef is busier than ever and frequently travels across the country for a variety of events, dinners and media appearances.

“I miss cooking on a regular basis,” Gomes comments on her now hectic lifestyle. “If I could just go into my kitchen everyday and just prep I’d be pretty happy! However, I am getting older, so my body doesn’t always lend itself to that,” she adds, laughing. “Well, maybe only an eight hour shift of prep cooking then,” jokes Gomes. “That would be pretty cool.”

For more Nicole, check out www.nicolegourmet.com and Cluck N Cleaver @ 1511 14 St SW

By: Dan Clapson

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.