Who knew that working with food and making it look pretty was a job? It takes a true artist to make food not only presentable, but somewhat artistic. Hanna Hajilou is who you would call a food artist. She makes food presentation a true art that she’s managed to turn it into a career. This talented “food designer” is a true rare gem and there are not many like her, that’s for sure. This week, she took some time away from the kitchen to answer a few questions about how it all started.
BWR: What inspired you to open your own catering business?
Hanna: I love food and was always passionate about hosting and making things look pretty. I never went to chef school, so I read up a lot and practice a lot at home.
BWR: On your website, you mention that your main inspiration always came from Julia Child. What is it about her that inspired you so much?
Hanna: What inspired me so much about Julia child is that she started on cooking later on in her life and had zero experience in the kitchen. It all came from passion, similar to me.
BWR: Do you have any other role models that you look up to other then Julia Child?
Hanna: Yotam Ottolenghi is amazing and Ella Woodward is also someone I look up to. And who could forget Martha Stewart! She is absolutely amazing.
BWR: You don’t just cook and cater food. You also design it in such an original way that you can’t find anywhere. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Hanna: when I started I was so caught up in doing something that wasn’t done in Montreal so I did tons of research and started grazing tables which are very popular in Australia. I then told myself if I wanted to make this work, I would have to do it my way. With a mom that’s had a flower shop for 35 years, I always include flowers on my tables. So my mom is definitely a huge inspiration! I also get tons of inspiration from old magazines my parents kept. You’d be surprised how much cool inspiration you could get from old magazines!
BWR: Would you say that food played a huge part in your life growing up?
Hanna: We always had people over (30-40 people!) it was absolutely nuts! My mom would cook up a storm like it wasn’t a big deal. I definitely grew up with it. When I started dating my boyfriend (now husband), I entered an Italian family who loves cooking and really spends most of their time in the kitchen.
BWR: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment? What are you most proud of?
Hanna: I’m most proud of quitting a very stable and good government job with 3 kids under the age of 3 and just giving this a shot. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t. I had to ask a 1,000 people to get 1 yes.
BWR: Do you have any regrets? Is there anything that you wish you would have done differently?
Hanna: I never regret anything in life. Maybe the extra chocolate bar I had last night but besides that I wouldn’t change a thing.
BWR: If you could give an advice to someone who is just starting out, what would it be?
Hanna: Give it your all. Sounds cliché but you have to give it your all for it to work. Passion is very important and standing out by coming up with your own ideas and work.
BWR: At BWR, we focus on women entrepreneurs. We understand the challenges that they face and the daily struggles compared to male entrepreneurs. Can you tell us if you’ve faced any challenges as a women entrepreneur?
Hanna: It’s funny because as an employee, I felt like I would get screwed over. Not paid enough, voice not heard, etc. As an entrepreneur I feel as though I make my rules and I decide who I want to work with. I have been blessed and have worked with many male dominant companies (catering companies mostly) and they have been great.
BWR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What is your main goal?
Hanna: I am hoping to grow and just keep inspiring others with different ideas, recipes. I’m all about hosting without spending hours in the kitchen! Actually enjoying your time with family and friends. And of course making everything look pretty 🙂