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Dan and Micayla HayesThe London Chef

BY BRIAN HARTZ AND DOUG TAYLOR
PHOTO BY SIMON DESROCHERS

They might share an accent and a nationality, but you’d never confuse Dan Hayes with that other London chef, Gordon Ramsay.

The soft-spoken, scowl-free namesake of The London Chef — a cooking school and catering service (among other things) on upper Fort Street — opted for 7th Heaven over Hell’s Kitchen when outfitting his business, which he founded and co-owns with his wife, Micayla.

No hulking, metallic, industrial stoves and ovens here, thank you very much. It’s all tasteful white countertops, wood tables, and domestic appliances designed to make cooking-class students as cosy as possible.

The mom’s kitchen look “helps people want to learn how to cook,” says Micayla, 
27, who hails from Victoria and holds a master’s degree in criminology. She met Dan, 31, four years ago when she attended one of his cooking classes at a Whole Foods in London. The romance that resulted threw off her plans to go to law school, but she has no regrets.

“I’m having so much fun with this. If I’d followed that other path … I probably never would’ve explored the creative side of my brain, which I didn’t even know I had until I got involved in this.”

While Dan, through his teaching and catering, is very much the face of The London Chef, Micayla oversees equally important areas like business development and design. And although they literally bring different skill sets to the table, the couple shared a unique, singular vision for the business right from the start that makes it difficult to pigeonhole The London Chef.

“We’re five businesses in one,” says Dan. “We’ve got the dining room, which during classes becomes part of the class but also has its own identity as a venue. We’ve got the cooking school. We’re a catering service, on- or off-site. And then we have a café and pantry. It’s five businesses in 2,000 square feet.”

It wasn’t the most convincing concept to sell to the people and institutions they needed help from, says Dan, but “we stayed true to the vision all the way through. It’s not always easy when you have designers and architects twice your age telling you that they know better. At times it seemed idiotic, but it’s really working. And I think that’s in part due to the fact that it’s like people’s home kitchens.”

It’s working so well that Dan is in demand for cooking classes in Calgary and Toronto, two cities he’ll visit this year in an effort to promote The London Chef brand. Eventually, they’ll need to hire more chefs to teach in Victoria (Dan’s currently teaching about 10 classes per week, including four on Saturdays). And they’ve drawn the interest of potential franchisees in Vancouver and Toronto. So far, though, they’re taking it slow.

“There are a lot of opportunities for us to explore, but we want to stay true to the brand and Dan’s personality as a cooking instructor,” she says. “We don’t rule anything out, but we still have a lot we want to do in Victoria.”

 

Profile

Type of business: Cooking school, catering service, café, specialty food retailer

Year founded: 2011

Owners: Dan and Micayla Hayes

How many employees: 
5 full-time, 3 part-time, 
8 casual/contract

What sets you apart from your competition: We put a lot of effort into making this place feel like a home. We wanted it to feel warm and inviting, like you’re hanging out in a good friend’s kitchen. That makes people feel really comfortable, so they feel they can go home and replicate what they’ve learned.


www.thelondonchef.com

 



Douglas magazine's annual 10 to Watch competition celebrates innovation and entrepreneurship by recognizing ten up and coming businesses in Greater Victoria.

Click to see a full recap and photo gallery from this year's 10 to Watch gala.

Read about the other 2012 10 to Watch winners:

Vshoen Boutique
Victory Barber & Brand
IKAN Installations
First Light Technologies
YUPIQ
Evoshift Communications Inc.
SendtoNews
Brink Events
Parc Modern Interiors

Get your copy of Douglas to see the full feature on all of the winners!

 

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