ChefGail Fund – In Memory of Gail Hall
Gail was born and raised in Toronto to Polish/Romanian parents, Sol and Frances. They were serial entrepreneurs who met in a fur- factory and moved on to own restaurants, a pickle factory, and taxicabs. She was the little sister to two brothers (Allan and Jerry) and because her parents were working, Gail learned early that cooking food was a way to make people happy. But food was a recreation not a vocation, so she became a civil servant in Ontario.
Gail met her future husband at a week-long communications course offered by Scouts Canada in Ottawa. After she returned home, she initiated a long distance romance that resulted in a move to a new job and an apartment in Edmonton. The romance bloomed and she and Jon were married in October 1982. They bought a house in Pleasantview (in Edmonton) in March and lived there for 19 years. Her stressful job had her travelling across Alberta providing funding and support to organizations settling the Vietnamese Boat People. When she came home, cooking was a stress relieving pleasure. Cooking was just therapeutic.
After a couple of years she took a leave of absence to finish her university degree. After graduation she was reluctant to return to the stressful job and cast about for a new career. After careful research she started a catering company called Gourmet Goodies with an investment of $3,000. Unable to get a bank loan, she built the company on cash flow. After 18 years she had built an awarding winning catering company in Edmonton with 100 staff and $3 million in annual revenue. After the economic collapse following the 9-11 attacks, she closed the company and found a change of pace in retail sales.
Despite her success in retail, she missed the excitement and satisfaction of culinary. In consultation with Judy Schultz, the Edmonton Journal food editor, she started the Seasoned Solutions Loft Cooking School in her downtown loft and began to offer culinary tours at the local farmers’ market and to destinations around the world.
With no employees and working from home, Gail was free to reinvent her career. She was a food columnist on CBC radio for five years, presented on CTV, Global and BT, taught at Metro Continuing Education for 30 years, and led 35 culinary tours in 20 years. Over 2000 people took hands-on or demonstration cooking classes from her. Her presentations at conferences and workshops focused on the use of local food and highlighted local producers.
- one of the first Global Woman of Vision,
- a YWCA Woman of Distinction,
- awarded the Milner-Fenerty Pinnacle Business Award and
- awarded the Mayors Award for Sustained Support for the Arts.
She served on:
- the Board of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce,
- the Women of Vision selection committee,
- the board of Theatre Network,
- advisory panels for two food and nutrition programs at NAIT,
- the board of Cuisine Canada, their convention committees, and cook book awards panels.
She reached into the community by:
- teaching cooking skills to young mothers at the Bissell Centre,
- guiding nutrition for children at summer camps,
- administering her condominium corporation for six years,
- judging food and cooking competitions for Gold Medal Plates, Babas and Borshch Festival in Andrew and the Dairy Board of Canada.
- presenting at Christmas in November in Jasper for 23 years
- representing Alberta at a cultural display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC
- mentoring young chefs, women, and new restaurateurs.
Gail lived a very full life that included travel in her vintage VW Camper Van throughout Western Canada and a memorable two-month drive down the Pacific Coast to California and back through Yellowstone Park. She and Jon drove the Alaska Highway and toured both Yukon and NWT. Although she and Jon had no children or pets, they have 17 nieces and nephews spread across Canada. The circle of life continues to turn with four (soon to be five) grand nieces and nephews.
Gail self-discovered her breast cancer in 2008 and it metastasized into bone in 2011. She was a constant promoter of food as medicine to medical staff, other patients, and cooking school participants. She accepted her disease and hair loss matter-of-factly and built a collection of hats that profiled rather than hid her baldness. She never “battled” cancer but accepted it in the same way you would if you lost a limb or contracted any other disease; “This is today’s reality and I deal with it day-to-day.” Gail built cancer treatment into her life and never missed a beat until recently when it began to affect her lungs and reduced her ability to breath. Gail passed away on November 16, 2016 at 6 am peacefully and comfortably. She remains a warrior and now is attending a constant party at which she does not have to cater or clean up.
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