By Jonathon Fischer and Corbin Tomaszeski
We have very different career backgrounds, but have come together as co-franchisees for The Melting Pot’s first restaurant in Ontario. We’re both hands-on owners who make sure to walk up to our customers and ask them if they’re enjoying the fondue experience, because we want to leverage what works well, particularly as we plan to open more locations in the near future.
I was born in 1962 in Coburg, Ont., and was the youngest of four children. We moved to Toronto when I was about five years old. My parents split up a few years later, when I was at elementary school.
I grew up in an unconventional household, as we lived with my dad, who was the CEO of an international company. Though he was based in Toronto, he travelled a lot, so we were often taken care of by a nanny. I learned to become very independent at an early age and there were signs of my entrepreneurial and enterprising spirit.
When I was 12, my father remarried. His second wife was truly a wicked stepmother. I left home at 16, by which point I had some savings from summer jobs, as I had planned to buy a car. I continued going to school while working two jobs. The experience taught me a lot about survival skills.
Before I graduated from high school, my father and stepmother broke up. I was then able to reconnect with my father. With his European background, he advised me to do an apprenticeship in Germany.
Going to Europe was a life-changing experience. I don’t recall any of my friends in my teenage years following current events, but the first-year German apprentices read newspapers from around the world and had much of their lives planned. I lived in Germany for four years and it provided a lot of much-needed structure and direction for me.
In addition to playing sports like baseball, soccer and volleyball, I liked to cook. I stumbled into it, growing up with a big family. I really liked how food brought people together.
In school, I loved math and science, especially biology and physics, and anything creative, like writing. There was also a cooking program, which helped me realize this was a field I wanted to pursue.
After high school, I went to a culinary arts program for two years at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and then apprenticed for three years in Edmonton. I toiled in a number of restaurant and hotel kitchens and joined the Canadian Federation of Chefs & Cooks—now known as the Canadian Culinary Federation/Fédération Culinaire Canadienne (CCFCC)—where I became the membership director.
What I loved about the restaurant industry was the flexibility. There were limitless opportunities. I could work in a hotel or run my own restaurant. It was always changing.
The CCFCC role involved making many connections, which led to me meeting the executive chef for the café in Edmonton’s Holt Renfrew store. He was retiring and they wanted me to take over the position. I followed my intuition and felt I could create a career there. I joined in 1997, revamped the menu and became involved in both the operations and customer service sides of the business. I was there for three years.