Our Instructors

Emily Richards

A highly qualified and well-regarded Professional Home Economist, Emily Richards has over 15 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!

Matt Howell

Matt-HowellMatt Howell earned a Masters Degree in Brewing and Distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Heriot-Watt is known for conducting top research for the distilling and brewing industry and for training the world’s leading brewers and distillers. While in Edinburgh, Matthew had the opportunity of working for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a private members’ club that specializes in single cask, cask strength Scotch Whisky.

In addition to being the founder of Saint Howell Tastings, Matthew is the Packaging and Quality Manager at Nickle Brook Brewery in Burlington ON.

Robert Lawrie

Robert LawrieRobert Lawrie has spent over 20 years in the Food and Beverage industry including ten years as a Sommelier.  Robert enjoys working with chefs and customers to help create exciting and innovative menus.  His wants to make understanding wine easy and unpretentious and his gentle and friendly manner make him a wonderful instructor.  In his downtime, Robert teaches at wine classes at Conestoga College and is currently enjoying some downtime in the great outdoors with his family.




Smita ChandraSmita Chandra

Smita Chandra is a “breath-of-fresh Indian air” and brings to Relish her exception knowledge of Indian cuisine.  She is the best selling author of three renowned Indian cookbooks, the Easy Tandoori cookery app, a cooking instructor, media personality and recipe developer as well as a South Asian cooking expert.  Developing South Asian recipes is one of Smita’s strengths. Her wealth of experience, culinary expertise and deep understanding of regional Indian cuisines have combined to produce recipes that create traditional, flavorful and aromatic dishes while still managing to simplify the cooking process tremendously. Smita’s talents go way beyond the kitchen. She has a degree in psychology, a master’s degree in social work and a degree in communications. She has worked as a journalist in India, the US and Canada and has written over 100 by-lined articles.







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.

Kate Dowhan

Kate comes to Relish with a well qualified resume of hands-on experience as a chef.  Graduating from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in English she followed her passion of food and cooking to the Stratford Chef’s School., where she graduated with honours.  She spent time honing her writing and cooking skills by training as a sous chef at Peter Martin’s 20 King Street and with Chatelaine, Homemakers and alongside food columnist Lucy Waverman at the LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine.  Kate then moved to Canadian Living magazine where she spent six years writing and testing recipes for one of Canada’s most well-respected food news sources.  Today, Kate is a busy working mother of 3 beautiful children, but still enjoys sharing her love of cooking and great food ideas for today’s busy families.


Dana Rourke

Dana RourkeA Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Dana is passionate about helping others along their path to finding health, balance and joy. She developed the services of Food Naturally based on the need she saw in the community for a trustworthy and reliable source of convenient, authentic healthy meals and advice about food and balanced living.Graduating from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, cooking countless hours with whole foods, training in Reiki, and studying Asian healing with Mike Fisher, Dana’s approach to nutritional counseling is very unique. Combining awareness, whole foods and the lifestyle and emotional connections to what ails us, this comprehensive approach is like none other for addressing the root causes of an illness or imbalances in the body.

Charmian Christie

Charmian Christie is a food writer, recipe developer and cookbook author living in Guelph Ontario.  She Charmian_Christie.specializes in approachable, inspiring, from-scratch cooking. Fresh, local ingredients — often from her garden — plenty of herbs and spices, and a bit of imagination are key. Oh, and some full-fat cream doesn’t hurt either. Although she has managed to turn her sweet tooth into a career move, she balances things out with healthy options such as soups and homemade salad dressings.

Her cookbook, “The Messy Baker: More Than 75 Recipes From A Real Kitchen”, features delicious, approachable recipes that will flake, spill and drip their way across your kitchen table.  It was named Top Cookbook for 2014 by The Toronto Star, Calgary Herald and Canadian Living.

Charmian has covered the savory baking beat for Food Network.ca, was the baking columnist for Recipes.ca and is the food columnist for Guelph Life. Her articles appear in a variety of national publications, including The Globe and Mail, More, Edible Toronto, Canadian Gardening, Relish and Natural Health. She is also a contributor to several cookbook anthologies including Allergy-Friendly Food for Families by Kiwi and Share: Delicious Dishes from FoodShare and Friends.

Chef Derek Hines

Derek HinesChef Derek Hines was raised on a farm in Perth County Ontario.  Early on Derek demonstrated a love for all things food. The setting gave him a unique perspective on the path that food takes on its journey from farm to table.

Derek’s skill lies in his ability to decode flavour combinations, reducing them down to their most basic elements.  He is the proud chef/owner of Boutique Catering and Executive Chef at The Easy Pour Wine Bar in Blair Ontario.  Simply put, Derek creates upmarket food that looks and, more importantly, tastes incredible. It isn’t rocket science – start with quality ingredients and do nothing more that showcase their intrinsic flavours. Food isn’t the spice of life, food is life. Mange Vie!



Mardi Michels

Mardi is a full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and the author of eat. live. travel. write – a blog focusing on culinary adventures near and far. She has lived and worked as a teacher in Australia, Hong Kong, England, France and now calls Toronto home. As part of her job, she runs a cooking class twice a week for 7-13 year-old boys, Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. She’s a regular contributor to JamieOliver.Com, is a Food Revolution Day Ambassador for Toronto and in her spare time teaches cooking and baking classes around Toronto.

Chef Simon BriggsSimon Briggs

Simon left the forestry industry in Scotland in 1998 to take a cooking job in an Edinburgh pub.  After travelling the world from 2003 to 2005 working in restaurants in New Zealand, and a cattle ranch in rural Australia, Simon ended up in Canada working as a line cook. Simon’s passion for pastry began in 2008; soon after he enrolled at The Stratford Chefs School, where he graduated top of his class. Simon has worked Garde Manger and Pastry at Rundles Restaurant (Stratford, Ontario), Baker at The Bakery at Pazzo (Stratford, Ontario) and Pastry at Bijou Restaurant (Stratford, Ontario).  Simon also staged at Martin Wishart’s Michelin star restaurant (Edinburgh, Scotland), and at Chez Panisse (Berkeley, California.) He is currently the Pastry Chef at Mercer Hall Restaurant (Stratford) and is in his third year of teaching pastry and cookery at the Stratford Chefs School.

Riziero Vertolli, Metroland Media Group

Photo Courtesty Riziero Vertolli, Metroland Media Group

Hendrik Varju

Mexican-Hungarian cooking instructor, Hendrik Varju, 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”.








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