Job title: Chef and Proprietor, Nicole Gourmet
Why she’s a 2014 Top 40:
Through her work at Nicole Gourmet and appearances on Season 3 of Top Chef Canada, Nicole Gomes has kept many a Calgarian well fed, helped raise the profile of Calgary’s culinary scene and raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities.
When Nicole Gomes was a kid, she read The Joy of Cooking from cover to cover and regularly invited other kids over so she could make them something to eat.
Gomes has always been happiest in the kitchen, and, as the owner and head chef at the catering company Nicole Gourmet, it’s still where she spends most of her time.
After training at Vancouver’s Dubrulle French Culinary School, Gomes travelled the world cooking, eventually coming to Calgary to work as the sous chef at Catch and then as the opening chef at Mercato.
Gomes clearly knows her way around the kitchen of a fine-dining restaurant and could have made a full career moving her way up in other people’s kitchens, but she wanted to own her own business by the time she turned 30.
Although she had offers from investors to help her start a restaurant, Gomes instead opted to start a boutique catering company – the financial risk was lower and she could open the business on her own, without having to answer to anybody.
Nicole Gourmet got a significant PR boost in 2013 when Gomes was a contestant on Top Chef Canada and managed to make it further than any other woman in that season of the TV cooking competition. Not only did Gomes raise more than $70,000 for local charities by throwing Top Chef-viewing events, but she also raised both her own profile as well as that of Calgary’s vibrant food scene.
Today, Nicole Gourmet is one of Calgary’s most sought-after boutique catering companies. With more than 1,600 clients, Gomes and her team of more than 30 staff will cater up to five events a day – all without doing any traditional advertising. With plans to open what she describes as a fast casual single-protein restaurant in early 2015, Gomes’s brand continues to grow as more and more Calgarians get a chance to taste her food.
“What Top Chef did for me was make me refocus on my business,” Gomes says. “I don’t look at myself as a celebrity chef. I look at Top Chef as a really great opportunity for people to realize my passion for cooking, and I consider it quite a personal accomplishment. People always tell me that they wished I’d won, but I feel like I did. I feel like I won.” –Elizabeth Chorney-Booth