Local chef builds culinary social enterprise, supporting youth and their families through therapeutic cooking


Pam Fanjoy started her career as a clinical social worker and worked throughout the health care sector for 25 years. In 2010, Pam decided to start taking culinary lessons as a personal outlet for some fun and eventually graduated from George Brown College with a Culinary Management degree in 2013. While still practicing social work, she had started cooking prepared healthy meals for professionals, which was so well received that she opened a storefront in Erin in 2014.

Pam later created Fan/Joy, where she refined her line of Gourmet to Go frozen meals and continued exploring the synergies between her two greatest passions: helping youth and families improve their mental health and food.  The connection seemed natural to her and she began whisking up recipes with therapeutic techniques that helped people to learn new coping skills, better communication and how to collaborate with others through cooking classes for youth, families, and individuals.

Pam relocated to Hillsburgh in 2016 after winning Food Network’s Chopped Canada. With two years established as a rural hot spot, Fanjoy had just enrolled in Rhyze Ventures, a women-led business program at Innovation Guelph, in January 2020 when COVID hit. It quickly became clear to Pam that she needed to pivot and focus on offering services and products that would continue to serve the needs of the community through this unprecedented crisis. She transformed her restaurant into a Culinary Studio, expanding her ability to immediately increase capacity to provide direct counselling support to rural youth and families experiencing stress, school-related issues, and anxiety from isolation during this time.

Pam realized that what she was actually building as a business was a social enterprise with a strong commitment to sustainability and circularity. The next step seemed natural to her; to recruit Abel Page as Fan/Joy’s Social Impact and Sustainability Manager in the fall of 2020, to support her vision and position the business for the successful pivot of creating a Culinary and Counselling Learning Center.

With the award of the Seeding Our Food Future grant, Fan/Joy was able to develop a full sustainability framework and gain momentum. A comprehensive set of sustainability goals have been developed regarding packaging, food waste, climate change and social impact and will be rolled out in 2021. Specifically, a 2% food waste target has been set and will be met by creating innovative products, such as an eco-special meal plan, and increasing food security by offering nutritious meals at a discount price by using whatever is at hand.

These goals align with Fan/Joy’s circularity model to reduce environmental impact, while also maximizing social benefits to the community. Utilizing the key successes of mentorship, innovation, and an automatic contribution of $5 from each family meal sold, Fan/Joy contributes to their new Social Impact Fund to provide student bursaries for their Junior Chef programs.  Their new Junior Chef program is on track to expand its offerings to Guelph, having had its first successful 6-week pilot program at the end of 2020 at in the Nourish kitchen at 10C Shared Space. Pam is always looking for creative win-win partnerships that can be formed with local suppliers and like-minded agencies that are looking to improve our mental health systems.

To learn more about Fan/Joy and Junior Chef, visit: https://chefpamfanjoy.com.


Photo by Caroline Attwood from Unsplash.