Chef Suzanne Barr On Taking Risks And Finding A Work-Life Balance

The Toronto chef shares why she decided to leave her high-paying producer gig to pursue cooking, and why it’s important to keep challenging yourself.

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Presented by Renew Life

Toronto chef and author Suzanne Barr – who’s currently the culinary curator of Sand & Pearl Oyster Bar in Prince Edward County, Ont. – took a huge career risk when she left her prominent gig as a TV producer to pursue cooking at 30. Here, she talks about leaving a steady paycheck and why it paid off, and how she finds balance at home with her family these days.

Did you always aspire to be a chef?

I actually did not. I had always dreamed of becoming a photographer or filmmaker, and that was it, that was all I knew. But when my mom got sick, I recognized that, maybe, what I thought was my be-all-end-all gig, was not going to be the job of my life. And that was okay.

Cooking was always something we did in our house as a family, but I think when I made the decision to actually pursue it [professionally], it was about trying to understand wellness, and understand what it took to cook for my mother. It was almost like we’d flipped roles. So [cooking] was really something that came to me later in life.

Were you worried about starting over?

When I walked away from my life, and where I was, I didn’t give it a second thought. I knew I needed to change something. It was hard, because you get comfortable. You have the steady paycheck, the comfort of your title. And now [all of a sudden] I’m nobody, I’m fighting to tell people, “Just give me a chance.” I had to persevere, and my self-confidence is what rang through, and people took that and said, “I’m gonna give this girl a shot.” And they did, and it paid off.

Does it get easier to keep taking risks?

I don’t think it gets easier, honestly, I think it gets even more challenging. And that’s okay, because I think the challenge is the best part.

How do you find work-life balance?

It is a challenge; I won’t lie about that. As a small-business owner, it’s hard to turn it off. Empathy is one thing that I would share with anyone who is wondering, “How do I create that work-life balance?” Be gentle with yourself.

What do you want to accomplish next?

Making my voice be heard, not just within my community, but also outside of my community. [To keep] impacting, communicating and building with other people. [As well as] crossing platforms and spreading my story, because I feel like all of our stories have a place. As my story grows, I grow. And my story is just beginning.