Life has been a whirlwind since Thea VanHerwaarden of the Comox Valley finished runner-up last year on the popular CTV reality television show MasterChef Canada.
She has started her own personal brand called Théasty, appeared regularly on national TV morning shows, done her own dinner series and private events, and donated time as an auction prize for charities. She’s also an ambassador for Tourism Whistler, and works with a communications firm sharing food and tourism spots in various places.
“I have a blog ( www.theasty.com ) and do content creation, recipe development, and have combined my love of travel and food into everything I do,” said VanHerwaarden, 31, a Vancouver resident. “As far as cooking competitions, I’ve kept my options open. I am looking at pursuing my food career in media. I never wanted to be a chef in a restaurant, but I’ve always wanted to share food, whether it be a recipe, restaurant or a long table dinner.”
She essentially learned to cook in her travels, by sampling cuisine from various corners of the world. VanHerwaarden was born in Comox, though she spent some of her formative years living and travelling throughout Europe. She has also spent time in South America, Asia and the Caribbean.
“My parents were big foodies. When I broke my back in 2006, I began to cook more seriously at home trying to remake some of my favourite international dishes. Since then, I haven’t stopped.”
She cooks mostly Italian and Mexican, and loves fusing them together. She also makes pasta twice a week, and considers herself a ‘bolognese connoisseur.’
“I can eat tacos everyday. I grew up eating Mexican at home. My father was raised in Arizona where my grandmother made Mexican almost daily. Those recipes, and Mexican food in general, is likely why I am drawn to it now.”
Outside the kitchen, VanHerwaarden runs a team at Vancouver-based Axis Insurance Group, an amalgamation of several insurance brokerages. She has won two industry awards, Young Gun of the Year (under 40) across Canada, and Broker of the Year.
“I have spoken at a number of conferences across Canada and have contributed to various magazine articles,” she said. “I speak frequently about how you can have a career and a passion, and how you can retain staff effectively by supporting passions. This struck the eye of a lady who worked in the White House who has asked me to speak at an Emerging Leaders conference in Miami next year.”