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Meet Debb Coote…by Bren Short

Debb Coote is a mother, grandmother, business executive, entrepreneur, and master chef, born in Newmarket, Ontario.

For many years, Debb was an executive assistant, working for various international and domestic companies, Canadian Tire, Perego Pines, Omemee Business and Community Improvement Association, Canada Trust Realty, and also some non-profit organizations.   For a time, she had the position of medical assistant to two psychiatrists and several family physicians.

Debb was involved in the main street revitalization in Alliston, volunteering for the Ministry of Agriculture to give back to her hometown.

One of her most effective skills was in writing strategic plans for companies as a freelance and was able to streamline the workforce, having no loyalty ties to employees within the company.

Debb grew up on a farm with lots of books to read, there were no computers then.  She worked on the farm and was a tomboy who just loved horses and could ride almost before she could walk.

She was curious about food and learned how to cook in her parent’s kitchen.  Both of them were excellent cooks and would make her repeat a task until she could do it to their satisfaction.

When she was thirteen, she decided to cook lunch for her parents, which took her forever.  Her dad commented, “Well, a blind man would be glad to see it.”  She was determined to do better.

Debb was able to secure a part-time job at the age of fifteen which turned into an apprenticeship with a German woman who had a little deli/catering business in Nobleton and was looking for help.  Up until now, her sole income was the baby bonus which she had to split with her brother, but now, she would make $3 an hour!

She was very nervous to begin with and cut her thumb on the meat slicer the first day, but she never did it again.  She became fascinated with food because of the creative aspect. Her family came from all over Europe and she began learning how to make food from different countries, but only German cooking at work.  Food became her world. 

After high school, Debb not only worked at the catering company but also worked at Home Hardware part-time to put herself through college.  Her father said it didn’t matter what she decided to do “as long as you have your shingle” by which he meant career.  He was referring to the nameplate that professionals and businesspeople hang outside their business.  So, she registered for the two-year business administration course at Seneca College.  She earned her business degree and began working as an executive assistant, making a reputation for herself.

However, she was still interested in food and was never happier than when the family all broke bread together, they were the best times.  The extended families were all in Europe and to get in touch meant writing letters.  Debb’s family went to Europe in 1965, their only trip as a family.

She continued catering even when she was working in high-end offices, catering events for the companies that she worked for and in more recent times, opened a bistro called Malikai’s.

Debb’s main project at the moment is a cookbook for adults and also one for children.  The adult cookbook will have a history of each recipe on the left-hand page, e.g. where it originated, and the recipe and methodology on the right.  She will take the reader on a journey… ‘a road trip on the tongue’.

“I’ve been creating nutritious, wholesome recipes since my early twenties.   It’s about the ambience that it creates, about the need to be together, that’s the most important part to me.  But the fascination of putting together something different, maybe a spice that you haven’t used in this recipe before.  Making people understand that there’s more to food than just getting it off the shelf and putting it on the table.  My logo for Malikai was ‘Taste the Food That Makes Your Mouth Smile’.  Food should tickle all your senses.

“My mission at Malikai and as it is in general when it comes to food is that people are ingesting what I make and I take it seriously.  It not only tickles our senses but should also feed our mind, body and soul for us to be happy and healthy individuals.

“There are many challenges to being a woman chef.  Most of the well-known chefs are men. There are lots of women chefs out there but it’s much harder to get recognition.  Another challenge is the cost of food and being competitive in your prices.  Reputation is really important. As they say, ‘you’re only as good as your last meal’.  Covid was a real challenge for me, being a small business that depended a lot on in-house customers and catering events.  People weren’t organizing events for a while and I didn’t have a sidewalk patio, and so eventually, like many other businesses, I closed my doors.”

Debb has gone into people’s homes as a chef and prepared a meal for them, a meal that they learned how to make as well as eat.  She has held cooking classes and has taught many people.  Her phone is always ringing with people asking for advice, everything from how do I do this, to where do I put the rack in the oven.  Her favourite classes are with teens. 

“They’re just like big sponges and it’s exciting to watch them get it. And then having a finished product and knowing that they created it.  The look on their face is worth it. 

I spoke with Pierre Burton and he gave me this advice, “know your mind and do your best – be honest with yourself and with others”

Dini Petty – We talked about knowing it’s a man’s world, being a woman, and how to navigate that.

Elizabeth Arden was another lovely woman.  I’ve met some incredible people and learned something from all of them.  All of these people were down to earth and always very positive.”

Debb’s advice for everyone is:  

“Don’t give up.  You don’t need all the tools of the trade, you can compromise.  You don’t need fancy equipment.  Use what you have. It’s a good challenge and it stretches you.

“I wanted to learn how to quilt, but didn’t want to spend $400, $500 on a frame.  I went to the lumber yard and bought the wood and made my own.  Read and learn.  That’s how to create.  Tenacity, consistency – constantly learning, you don’t know it all.  I would also like to learn how to weave and make a tapestry for myself.

“Say to yourself, Ok – Let’s do this!  That gets me up and moving and empowers me, especially when it’s not a good day and things would be difficult.  Take what you have and use your imagination to improvise.

“Volunteer!  That’s your way of giving back.  And don’t forget to pay forward if someone has helped you.  Nobody ever left my bistro hungry.  If they didn’t have enough money, I would just accept what they had.  I’m only sharing this because we can all do it, give a helping hand to encourage those who need that help.” 

If you have a friend or family member that has an interesting past, send me their contact information…but don’t forget to ask them first.


Ugly Christmas Sweater

Last year’s Ugly Christmas Sweater competition was hilarious, with some interesting entries. Send photos of your ugliest Christmas Sweater and win a prize. Photos should be sent to brendashort@writingblog.ca no later than Dec 17th. Then, tune in to vote for the best…

Would you like to send your Christmas wishes with a family photograph or a picture of your Christmas tree or decorations? I will post all that are sent to me.


In Other News …


Shop at Forty-One this Christmas season, either in person or online.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out our new store shopping site here is the link. southsimcoeartscouncil.com/fortyone

Or link to our pages directly.

@ssacfortyone and @ssacarts4all


New Tecumseth Public Library


Wordsmiths

Everyone welcome!

Wordsmiths writers’ group continues to meet on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month from 1 – 3 pm.

The first meeting of the month is held over Zoom and the second meeting is held in the WI room of the Alliston library.

For more information, please contact Kim at kimburgess@ntpl.ca or Dian at dianandgary@gmail.com

Image via Pexels

The date for the December meeting on Zoom is Tuesday, December 6th. 1-3 p.m.
The in-person meeting is Tuesday, December 20th. 1-3 pm. in the WI room at Alliston Library.

Poetry Group

Calling all poets!

The NTPL Poetry Group continues to meet on the third Thursday of each month from 2 – 3:30 pm.

Join our Zoom program to share and discuss traditional written or spoken word poetry. Share your own or bring an old favourite. Listeners are welcome too. Register online, or contact Kim Burgess.

The next meeting is Thurs, December 15th at 2 pm. via Zoom

Challenge for October: Ode to Christmas

Or bring a poem that you want to share or one that you found