Food is everything for the founder of Savour Toronto. And that’s what she’ll tell you, too: “Food is life. It brings people together…. Food is history, is science, is art.”
“I love, love, love food.”
That’s why today, three months after learning she has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Suzanne Urpecz is enthusiastic about keeping her food-tour business going.
“I’m really thankful to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “Every day is an opportunity to do something fantastic.”
She has less time and energy now than when she launched three years ago with the support of her husband (and her small team), but says that in a strange way, that’s actually been beneficial.
“We all know time is of the essence,” she says. “With my health, it gave me a whole new perspective at really looking at time and feeling like this clock is constantly ticking around me. And there’s never going to be a better time to do things.”
They now better strategize and only take projects they “love and enjoy — [what’s] really important to us.”
Savour Toronto’s guides take locals and tourists through a curated itinerary of some of Toronto’s hot culinary scenes, allowing guests to sample some of the best of Kensington Market, Corktown/Riverdale, St. Clair West, or Ossington, while sharing little-known community stories along the way.
One of Urpecz’s favourite tours is the diverse and rich Kensington Market. She tells the story of Tom Mihalik, who fled from Hungary as a young boy with his father. They started with very little and built up to a secondhand shop on Kensington Avenue before opening Tom’s Place, a successful suit-making business. What Urpecz notes in particular is how he has given back to the community and supported neighbourhood entrepreneurs.
Community, culture, and food and history have always been intertwined for her. Growing up, Urpecz’s parents cooked a lot of Hungarian food like soups and goulash and chicken paprikash. As a child just wanting to blend in, unique lunches were not something to cherish.
Years on though, she maintained a curiosity about and link to her ancestral country, traveling to the region frequently and even starting to blog about food culture to help other Eastern and Central Europeans better understand the countries they left behind. Many, like her own family, left as refugees amid the 1956 revolution.
When her personal project started to sell ads and get sponsorships, she realized entrepreneurship might be in the cards.
“I recognized you can do something you’re passionate about and make money — that’s amazing.”
Her culinary training, her experience telling stories as a journalist, and her passion for food all culminate in Savour Toronto, with the mission of enriching people’s lives through food: “Isn’t that what life is all about? To have amazing experiences and memories? ‘Cause in the end that’s all we have.”
The business skills she picked up later from a program at the Toronto Business Development Centre, which helped her create a business plan through classes and mentorship.
Despite being an avid traveler, Urpecz says she and her husband are always excited to return to Toronto and “fell in love with it again and again and again.”
“There’s no place like Toronto.”
She appreciates the security, support for entrepreneurs, health care system and, of course, the cuisines.
“The food scene here is incredible and recognizing the diversity we have — I took that for granted. Then when I started traveling, I was like, where else can you have so much variety and really good stuff too?
“People cook so authentically and embrace food here really well, and are willing try different things.”
While she jokes about having “chemo brain,” Urpecz’s attitude parallels her reaction to a source of inspiration for Savour Toronto from her travels, Croatia’s rebuilding and flourishing tourism not long after conflict.
“It was so inspiring, how these people can do something so great and make something positive out of hardship,” she says.
“It’s amazing what people can do through adversity.”