For Guaravi Shah, cooking was just a hobby, something to do in the evenings to distract her from the daily grind of working as a nuclear engineer in Pickering. That is, until she discovered she had a genuine knack for it.
“I went to George Brown College and got a culinary certificate and thought, hey, let me take the leap, I think I’ll open a restaurant,” says Guaravi.
We know what you’re thinking: sure, her and a hundred other budding restaurateurs hoping to capitalize on Toronto’s current vibrant culinary community. Except for Guaravi, it worked. Shortly after beginning the search for a location to host her concept Tilde – a taquiera that experiments with cross-cultural flavours and hawks craft brews and cocktails – she found a spot on the Danforth, an area growing beyond its Greek routes to more diverse food offerings.
“I quit my job and the next week I had a location,” she says. “I was expecting it to be a long drawn out process.”
While Some of the quick thinking and analytical skills she carefully cultivated over her career as a nuclear engineer have proved helpful, but being a first time restaurateur comes with a whole new set of challenges.
“It's not about being a chef, it's about being a business owner,” says Guaravi. “Staffing has been extremely challenging right now, the turnover in the industry is incredible.”
Guaravi was able to get some assistance from the Youth Employment Fund to hire some help. Shortly after, she heard from Enterprise Toronto about the resources there.
“I applied for (Starter Company) because we really needed the funds to expand the staffing and expand our hours into brunch service,” she explains. She got the grant, fine-tuning her business plan and receiving mentorship as well. It was after joining the program that Guaravi started to attend the Enterprise Toronto meet-ups.
“People from a couple other startups got together and (although) they were starting apps and techs companies and I was starting a brick and mortar place it was interesting to see the different perspectives,” she says. “Some were having issues with staffing and training so it was good to find that common ground even through our industries are completely different.”
Since completing the program the entrepreneur and foodie has added brunch to Tilde’s offerings.
“Enterprise Toronto really helped me to try to address a very challenging area in the industry,” says Guaravi.
It’s been an exciting transition for Guaravi, and it comes at an exciting time.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a little bit, but I have not found a city as diverse food-wise as Toronto is – you can literally pick up a pen, poke it on a world map and find that cuisine here in the city,” says the restaurateur. “It’s absolutely incredible to be here at this time, peoples’ ideas about food are changing, they’re more open-minded and willing to try interesting foods.”