Chef Barbara, also known as Babs, previously studied at the prestigious Cordon Bleu London achieving the Grand Diplome (Cuisine and Patisserie) and is a Sommelier Fisar. She has since studied in Italy and London and once crossed the pond to work in Canada. Food and wine are her life and equally, she loves sharing it with others, so we got Babs to share a little bit more about how the Babs Cooking School first launched as a little home chef service and has since grown into a cozy cooking school in a brand new location. We touch base on what has been in the happening in the Babs stratosphere since we last spoke six months ago.
Welcome back Babs! For those of us who are not too familiar, can you re-introduce yourself to us?
Thank you for having me back on #BEYOUROWN, it is an amazing honor for me. I’m Barbara Jakusconek and I was born 40 years ago in a loud crowded house. I am the last of 5, and my siblings and parents used to call me little one. I was born in the UK and I lived my 1st year in Algeria after that my family and I moved to Canada. My dad was an engineer so we travelled a lot. Since the summer of 1987, I have been living in Italy, as we returned to my mums native country. I have been living in Italy for the past 30 years but mainly in the region of Tuscany. I now live in Montefioralle, Greve in Chianti.
It is one the most beautiful hamlets I have ever seen. I am a chef and trained at the Cordon Bleu in London. Before studying at the Cordon Bleu, I also studied to become a sommelier and studied at FISAR. Food, wine, and fitness are who I am. I love cooking and of course eating. A good meal cannot be served with water, because it brings rust and to stay fit I need to exercise. I have 2 amazing dogs, Polly my yellow lab and Padme my border collie. Since 2009 I have been teaching cooking classes and have been working as a private chef.
Can you take us through the last 6 months of progression since we last spoke?
The season of 2018 was intense. I worked a lot and meet a lot of amazing people from all over the world. I also meet new local people for my network. My Brazilian friends came over to continue with the enogastromic tour project. I have never stopped searching for a new location for my kitchen. I will also be attending a course on nutrition and fitness, which I hope to develop eventually integrating it into my work.
How has your typical day changed, if it has at all?
Now, it is low season for me and my days have a different pace. I can study new recipes and new dishes to offer for the cooking courses and dinners. I have time to study and follow courses to improve myself. In fact, I will be following a nutrition and fitness course. I can work out more hours hoping that it will compensate for the lacking hours during the summer. My favourite part of the day is spending more time with my 2 little fluffy girls Polly and Padme.
Have you since raised any funding, expanded your team or reached any new milestones you set out to?
My team has remained the same. I am searching for a chef that can help me out from time to time. My mum is part of the team and she is the one that just needs to look at me and knows exactly what we need to do next. I love working with her as it is fun not only for us but also for the tourist to experience mother and daughter working together in the kitchen. I will catch her nibbling on food while working. My new milestone is to develop my nutrition and fitness idea. I am just understanding the best way to integrate it.
What is your current business philosophy?
My philosophy is experience, a life experience. Doing cooking classes and cooking dinners my aim to create an experience for guests. We all have memories of our experiences. We take a lot of photos but we also have photos that are printed in our hearts, those will bring us a smile and warmth to our soul while thinking of those moments. I would like to be part of one of those photos, where someone will think of the cooking class done together and will smile remembering that day.
Is your business plan still reflective of your business as of today, and have you stuck to your original business model?
My business plan hasn’t changed yet. Like many things, have been evolving slowly. My big turning point will be when I will finally find my new location in Chianti. Now, my location is in Gaiole in Chianti, it is beautiful and stunning but it is temporary. I also want to understand my idea of nutrition and fitness and how can I develop it.
Have you encountered any challenges or faced any business building barriers since we last spoke? If so, what did have you done to override them?
I have encountered some challenges. My 1st one was not being able to close two deals for two locations. I felt terrible once I discovered that they went to someone else. At the end, though I always see the glass half full and never half empty. Or if it is half empty I fill it till the top. Destiny has a better location waiting for me I just need to search for the right door and look for the key that will open my wonderland. My 2nd has been people trying to take advantage. This will continue happening as it is part of the game. I find that when people try to take advantage there is also a lack in respect. I truly believe that for long term working relationships there must be a strong base of respect. Only with respect you can work as a team and win the match.
Are you seeking any new professional mentorship or guidance for 2019?
For my business, I never had a mentor, it is not common in Italy. If I could have one I would like him to be the pastry chef Luca Montersino. He has always been my favourite chef. He explains things in a very easy way. Being a chef doesn’t necessarily mean being a good teacher but he is both.
If you could step into the shoes of any other influential leader who would it be?
If I think of an influential person that I have admired and I truly believe she left a sign in many people’s hearts, it is Lady Diana.
One key piece of advice for starting a business in today’s world?
I would suggest, be humble, be respectful, be kind to yourself and don’t expect grand things from day one. You need time for a business to start. It is a bit like planting a seed before you see the fruits it will take time. While you are waiting for the fruit you need to take care of what will grow from that seed. Each day it will grow, some days you might have hail and it might damage your plant. That is when it is ok to feel sad and angry but then you need to get up and Believe in yourself.
How are you continuing to redefine success?
For me, success is in small things. My collaborators, ex-clients, friends, family or boyfriend speaking highly of me to people. Sometimes it happens that I will meet people saying, “Babs I heard great things about you,” or people wanting to stay in touch with me after partaking a cooking class or eating dinner or lunch.
What I have been trying to do as well as showing everyone that Babs is a simple person that has a life outside the kitchen and I want people to know me not only as chef Babs but also as just Babs. I see success in leaving a good impression in people’s hearts.
Finally, what can we expect from you next throughout 2019 and what is your main focus?
My focus is to increase work. There are a couple of things that should be happening in 2019 one is at the end of March and one at the end of the season. I haven’t been saying it out loud to many as it might bring bad luck. I also hope to find my dream location in Chianti where to finally settle and to open more doors with opportunities.