In the wake of massive layoffs across different industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has actually provided some new opportunities for young entrepreneurs in Winnipeg.
Made by Paste and Kosmo’s Space Cowboy Food Cantina are two new businesses that have opened in the past few months. Neither have physical eat-in locations. As such, their current business models can weather evolving safety guidelines set forth by the Manitoba government.
Renée Girard, the former pasta chef at Harth Mozza & Wine Bar, was laid off in March. Girard, who was named Winnipeg’s favourite local chef in the Uniter 30 last year, was not about to stop making pasta.
“I always loved making food, but pasta is my No. 1 love,” Girard says. “I always dreamed of opening my own business or having my own restaurant, but with COVID, it sped things up in an unexpected way.”
In the early days of the pandemic, she made pasta at home. In August, Girard officially opened Made by Paste. She sells fresh pasta and sauces weekly, with ingredients almost exclusively sourced from local farms. The weekly menu is released on Saturdays and is made available for pickup on Thursday afternoons in the West End. With an occasional helping hand from her sister-in-law Britt Embry, Girard is able to offer a restaurant experience at home.
Kosmo’s runs exclusively through DoorDash. The “ghost cantina” offers a small selection of sandwiches and sides and is owned and operated by Stefan Lytwyn and his cousin, Nyk Bielak. Lytwyn was a sous chef at the Deer + Almond before he was laid off due to the pandemic, and Bielak was on tour with the cast of The Book of Mormon in New Zealand.
When Bielak returned to Winnipeg to weather the pandemic, “we saw an opportunity,” Bielak says. “We couldn’t let it pass by.”
Bielak does not have Lytwyn’s kitchen experience, but like many actors, he has worked in hospitality for many years. “It has been an incredible journey, but we are best friends, and every day here is so much fun. I went from Broadway stages to washing dishes, but I guess it is different when they are your own dishes,” he says.
Made by Paste and Kosmo’s have seen positive responses from customers. Girard often sells out from week to week, but while the experience has been great, her goal has always been to open a physical location, perhaps with similar take-home products to those she sells now.
“I am really enjoying myself and how it is running. Hopefully, it can be a bit of both, where people can bring their food home,” Girard says, “but I would love to be the one bringing the plates to the customers and talking to them in the space. There is something really romantic and beautiful about that.”
Published in Volume 75, Number 09 of The Uniter (November 12, 2020)