They say that a way to a person’s heart is through their belly. With Dario Tomaselli and Anita Heidema, it worked just as nicely the other way around.
Tomaselli is a well-known Toronto-based professional chef with decades of experience who once wowed the crowds during his stint as executive chef for the famous Oro restaurant. Today, he continues to infuse the same passion for his work, only now empowering students as culinary professor and co-ordinator of the Italian Culinary post-diploma program at George Brown College.
His enthusiasm is palpable — passionate and persistent, if somewhat relentless, he coaxes only the best from even the most timid of students. I should know — I watched him in action several years ago during a three-week stint at the famed culinary University of Alma in Colorno, Italy, where many of the post-op students continue their studies before embarking on various months-long “stages” — or placements — in restaurants around Italy. From there, many launched their full-time careers.
Anita Heidema is the calm to Tomaselli’s storm. Where he is full of restless energy, this blonde and pretty author, mindset coach and TV personality with a specialty in business strategies for entrepreneurs is calm and collected. Author of Vitality Knocks — Inspire Your World, Empower Your Life, Heidema offers a refreshing take on life’s challenges. She knows of what she speaks, as her credentials are extensive — she even has a cable show and podcast offering insight and assistance in life management skills.
How did these two total opposites connect? Well — food played a big role, that’s a given. But this is a story of almost fairytale proportions, except it’s in real time, real life.
They met when their respective sons were in kindergarten more than 20 years ago – both Anita and Dario lived in the the same neighbourhood, with sons attending the same school. The two watched their youngsters become best friends. Time went on and never in a million years did they think their worlds would come together.
But they did, two years ago, for these two friends from the old neighbourhood. At that point in their lives, both their marriages had long since run their courses. They started chatting. And, in a strange twist of fate — it was their sons, now grown up, who connected the dots for them.
“So funny — both of our boys have been best friends since they were small children,” said Anita, mother to a 22-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter.
“So, when it came time to tell our children that Dario — who also has a 22-year-old son and a 17-year-old son — and I were seeing each other, they were over the moon.
“We were so worried about their reaction — a new, blended family — but they just kept hugging each other. Dario’s son and my son said they always considered themselves more like brothers, ever since they were kids in the same neighbourhood, in the same kindergarten class.
“And now, in a way — they are. That’s when I realized things were going to work out — our kids were so in tune. It made Dario’s and my connection that much stronger.”
The two are now inseparable. In fact, they just returned from Alma, having successfully delivered a new group of students.
“Having Anita there, well, I think the biggest thing was the support — a person who can communicate and get the answers you are looking for,” said Tomaselli. “Anita … sees things better than I do. She’s a great communicator — she helped put things into perspective for me.”
For her part, Heidema saw Tomaselli’s partnership with his students “as phenomenal. He has this natural ability to reach out, make connections, and smooth things so that the students are totally connected to their careers in much the same way he is.”
Today, these two have embarked on a new adventure, planning events that combine both their talents — in the food world that leads back to the heart and the soul.
But I guess that’s what best friends do for each other.
PUMPKIN PUMPKIN EVERYWHERE: Oikos Canada has just released a limited edition Pumpkin Spice flavour yogurt that’s only available for the next few weeks. Creamy and delicious, available at most local grocery stories and supermarkets for around $6.
And Baskin-Robbins Canada has introduced Pumpkin Cheesecake as its newest flavour of the month — perfect for the Halloween season! This seasonal ice cream flavour includes crunchy ginger snap cookie pieces and a sweet cinnamon cream cheese flavoured ribbon to top it off.
EAT TO THE BEAT: Is back! Taking place next Tuesday, Oct. 17, this highly-anticipated event gathers 60 of the top female chefs for an evening of food and drinks, all for a fabulous cause. Presented by KitchenAid, this signature event of the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) celebrates its 22nd year this year, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m, at Roy Thomson Hall. It is the only event in Canada that exclusively features 60 female chefs supporting women through the challenges that come with a breast cancer diagnosis. General admission tickets are $189 and include all food and beverages (a tax receipt will be issued for the maximum allowable amount).
“Eat to the Beat has become Toronto’s must-attend culinary event and fundraiser over the years thanks to our participating chefs, sponsors and supporters,” says Cathy Park, co-chair, Eat to the Beat.
- For tickets or to see the line-up of chefs and beverage participants, please visit eattothebeat.ca. #EattotheBeat #CancerFighter
PUTTING ON THE POUTINE: Plaid Nation fans from around the world will gather at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square on Oct. 14 to experience the 8th Annual Smoke’s Poutinerie World Poutine Eating Championship. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event will feature three eating competitions with professional major-league eaters from all over the world taking the stage, aspiring amateur eaters who took first place in locally hosted Poutine Games — a series of Smoke-ified games — and a very hungry group of CEOs vying for the position as the top fundraiser in the CEO Charity Challenge supporting Friends of We Care.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut continues to hold the ultimate Poutine Eating World Record of 25.5 lbs., eaten in just 10 minutes! He’ll be defending his title with Matt “The Megatoad” Stonie’s live action battle for poutine supremacy! This year’s roster of professional eaters will be a battle of EPIC proportions!