Growing up in what she describes as an old-fashioned, big Italian family, Margherita Marcone has always enjoyed spending time in the kitchen. Her passion for baking took on new importance when her daughter Julianna was diagnosed with a nut allergy at a young age. Margherita wanted her budding foodie to still enjoy her favourite treats. One class at a time, this busy mom, who’s also a lawyer, completed her Pastry Diploma at Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa. Not long after, she founded Julianna Banana - Bake With Me to work with her daughter, teaching cooking classes for kids while raising funds for charity.
What was your goal in establishing this business?
We want to inspire kids and families to bake, cook, and create while learning about food, the value of community, and giving back. Whether it’s a cooking class, team-building event, or birthday party, we hope everyone finds their experience with us to be fun, nurturing, and professional.
Is Julianna as big a fan of baking as you are?
When we started the business, she was just nine years old; she has an eclectic palate and always wants to taste and try many different foods. She has always baked with me at home and now enjoys assisting in the classes. She has a big heart, so she appreciates what we are doing with the business in terms of fundraising. She enjoys being able to contribute in various ways, like helping with recipe development. She was the one who suggested we create a donut class, for example. She values knowing she’s an important part of this.
What kinds of classes do you offer, and where are they held?
We have both savoury and sweet classes. Two of the most popular are Introduction to Pasta and Introduction to Pastry; we also offer a variety of other baking classes, including cakes, donuts, and more. Our birthday parties — including high tea, pizza, and cake decorating — are also extremely popular. We currently use two locations — the Parkdale Food Centre kitchen in Hintonburg and the Family Table catering company’s kitchen in Little Italy.
What sets your classes apart?
A tremendous amount of preparatory work is involved in providing the ultimate culinary experience, with all ingredients pre-measured and set up in a mise en place so participants can get right to work; they also don’t have to do the cleanup afterward. The same applies to birthday parties and special events, even more so because then we customize and personalize classes (with invitations, party hats, special tableware, optional food-themed favour bags, etc.). We try to stay true to the classic techniques that are taught in cooking schools; we understand that kids are kids, but they are also very capable of making fabulous food and can find time in the kitchen very fun.
What aspects of Julianna Banana do you find the most rewarding and why?
I love the community aspect of bringing kids and families together. I’m so grateful to have built a loyal following; kids come back time and again for more classes. Two kids who started as students three years ago are now assisting in the classes. Seeing the kids so excited and passionate about creating food and appreciating the importance of giving back is energizing and rewarding. We have raised almost fifteen thousand dollars for various charities, including the Parkdale Food Centre.
What does the future hold for Julianna Banana?
We look forward to sharing the spirit of our business with more people by expanding our offerings to include more adult classes and customized events such as team-building cooking sessions, bridal showers, etc., all while continuing with our fundraising efforts.