By Sharon Yeo
Nothing could have prepared Kaelin Whittaker for the challenges she would encounter while trying to build her business, Awn Kitchen, in the middle of a pandemic. But she's still standing, and her latest shift has been greeted with tremendous support.
"It's been a roller coaster ... I've lost sight of the why, I've lost sight of the strength and resiliency of myself, I've felt defeat, I've felt fear, and a whole slew of other emotions," she said.
"But I have also felt so much positivity, love, grace, and so much pride and happiness. The team at Awn is incredible and willing to pivot and adapt as needed, they are there to support one another and the dream and vision that is Awn, to keep dreaming and keep pushing forward, even when the days are hard."
Awn Kitchen grew from Whittaker's home-based business, originally called Ruby Apron, which offered baking and cooking classes out of her home. In June 2021, she opened a brick-and-mortar storefront in the neighbourhood of Lansdowne, fulfilling a dream to have a space that would accommodate those classes and a full-service café. She had started planning it in 2019, before COVID-19 turned everything upside-down.
"I had built a strong foundation for Awn before deciding to expand," said Whittaker. "I knew Lansdowne needed and wanted a café," she said.
When Whittaker announced the postponement of all in-person classes in December, the community was disappointed but understanding. And their response was overwhelming when she introduced Awn at Home, which offers prepared meals made with seasonal ingredients.
"We've sold out every day, the feedback has been so positive, and it's been a fun way for us to pivot," said Whittaker. "It's something we aim to continue doing once we are back to dine-in and offering in-person classes again."