Our Instructors

Emily Richards, BASc., P.HEc

A highly qualified and well-regarded Professional Home Economist, Emily Richards has over 20 years of hands-on experience in the food industry.  This is backed by a Bachelor of Science, Home Economics specializing in Food & Nutrition from the University of Western Ontario.

Emily has authored or co-authored three cookbooks and continues to create recipes for notable Canadian magazines and companies such as: LCBO Food & Drink, Today’s Parent, Longo’s Experience, The Heart & Stroke Foundation, Egg Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farmers of Canada and Maple Leaf Prime Chicken and Pork.

Emily’s newest cookbook Per La Famiglia, fetes the celebrations and foods of an Italian-Canadian through the years by writing down family recipes that can be shared with generations to come.  Emily regularly appears across Canada presenting recipes, demonstrating cooking and entertaining ideas and always promoting her passion for food!








Paula Costa

Paula Costa

The lady with a keen palate and an unyielding culinary curiosity describes herself as “Just the girl next door….who can make your mouth water.” And she’s not kidding. Born in Kitchener, Ontario to a lively Portuguese family, Paula Costa began her culinary appreciation by dining at large, family gatherings. Back then, it was more about eating than cooking, and she admits to cleaning more dishes than plating them. It wasn’t until she was on her own, fending for herself, that she’d pick up the phone and place a call home, looking for directions and recipes she could recreate. Once she had mastered a few, she was hooked. Paula devoured cookbooks, cooking classes and spent time boosting her culinary skills with family and friends in the kitchen. She’s even cooked for Chef Norman Van Aken, legendary Father of New World Cuisine!

The food-obsessed blogger at The Dragons Kitchen, can whip up a Thai or Mexican meal, just as easily as she can an 11-course Titanic dinner based on the ship’s last dinner (which was written about in the New York Post April 2012!). But it’s her first love, the food of the Mediterranean – and Portugal in particular – that inspires her the most. Whether preparing a meal for at home for friends, or at her popular supper club events, leading a cooking class or catering for clients (saborosofood), food is Paula’s passion, and one she wants to communicate with others. In her words, “If you enjoy cooking, it’s not a chore anymore, it’s an expression of love.  That is what I want to share with people;  the love of cooking.” Stay tuned for her new adventure, where you can book her for a catering event or a cooking class or pick up a jar of her famous Piri Piri marinade.

Heather Wdowiak, BASc., M.AN., RD

Heather specializes in helping others develop a healthy relationship with food.  She believes healthy eating should be delicious and satisfying – not restrictive or stressful. Heather has been a dietitian since 2006. Educated at the University of Guelph, she has worked extensively in both clinical and community settings and has experience across all ages and stages of life.

She is a member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario and Dietitians of Canada. Heather continues to gain evidence-based nutrition knowledge through reading, conferences, and workshops.Heather resides in Waterloo with her husband and young daughter.





Mardi Michels

MARDI MICHELS is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of www.eatlivetravelwrite.com– a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. As part of her job, she runs cooking classes for boys aged 7 to 14. Mardi grew up in Australia, lived and taught in Paris for over five years and now calls Toronto home. In 2014, Mardi and her husband Neil Phillips (see below) purchased a historic home in southwest France, which they operate as a vacation rental property (www.neracvacationrental.com). Mardi is also a Food Revolution Ambassador and in her spare time teaches French cooking and baking classes. Her first book, In the French kitchen with kids, publishes July 31st2018 (Appetite by Random House). Read more at: www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/books.


Neil Phillips

Neil Phillips represents VinCetera at private events and tastings.

Neil has taken various wines & spirits courses over the years, and is a graduate of the Wine Specialist certificate program at George Brown College, where he has also helped teach. In addition, he has participated in courses with the French Wine Society, Université de Bourgogne, the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and is a member of the Society of Wine Educators. He passed WSET Level 3 in January 2017.

Riziero Vertolli, Metroland Media Group

Photo Courtesty Riziero Vertolli, Metroland Media Group

Hendrik Varju

Our Mexican-Hungarian cooking instructor, Hendrik Varju, is the author of “Mexican Dinner Parties – Complete Menus for Mexican Entertaining. Hendrik learned to cook from a very young age, spending countless hours in the kitchen with his Mexican born mother. He offers private cooking instruction in his own kitchen or yours, and his business trademark is “Preserving family traditions through cooking instruction. TM, which accurately describes his goal in the culinary world.  He believes that food ties generations together and that nothing else is more important in preserving family traditions and cultures.  Hendrik is a strong communicator and brings humour to his cooking instruction while sharing cherished family recipes through his business “Passion For Food”.

Chef Patrick Mathieu

Chef Patrick not only brings his charming and inviting personality to the Relish Kitchen, but  every dish he prepares is made with a passion for great tasting food.  When Patrick is not in our kitchen, you can find him working as a local firefighter with the Waterloo Region Fire Department. Patrick honed his cooking skills working alongside his French-Canadian grandmother and he loves to share time in the kitchen with his wife Andrea and children Evageline and Luke. Patrick has been a contestant on Chopped Canada (coming in as runner-up) and is the author of The Firehouse Chef: Favourite Recipes From Canada’s Firefighters.

Sandra Valvassori



Many of you will recognize Sandra as a warm friendly face in our Relish kitchen, but she is also a passionate cook, food blogger and wonderful instructor.  Sandra was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Canada in her early twenties.  Growing up in the Domincan, there was little in the way of processed food, so she was raised with meals cooked from natural whole ingredients, always fresh, always local. Motivated to stay connected to her past she has become a self-taught cook and learn to re-create these nostalgic flavours and aromas.  Today she is a busy mom of three children living in Waterloo with her husband and two dogs.  She writes and photographs her own dishes on her blog Sandra Valvassori and loves to spend her free time with us at Relish Cooking Studio.


Jannell Lo

Jannell Lo is a French-trained chef passionate about Southeast Asian flavours. She loves bringing people together in intimate settings and fuelling them with exciting, vibrant food. She gained her experience traveling and working abroad, from Montreal to Hong Kong, bringing home recipes that she learned from mothers and fathers around the world. You can find more of her stories and recipes on her blog, My BF is GF

Upcoming Cooking Classes
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  • Monday, June 3, 2019
    6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

A great cook knows the importance of mastering the most useful tool in the kitchen – the knife. (more…)

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