I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the delightful Terri Taylor of Tamborine Cooking School, a culinary experience not to be missed when visiting the beautiful Tamborine Mountain in South-East Queensland.

How to cook up a successful business – with Terri Taylor

Following your passion is not always an easy ride. Terri Taylor found this out when, in her late teens, a love of cooking led her into a position as an apprentice chef.

“Being a young girl in a male-dominated industry was very tough. I had to work twice as hard as the blokes to be considered worthy of my job. There was no equal pay back then, so even though I worked harder, I got paid less than they did!” says Terri. She believes her concentration, endurance and ability to keep going when things get tough were what got her through those difficult early years.

Terri’s hard work and determination paid off, and she went on to work in such fine dining establishments as Sydney’s Hilton Hotel and The Royal Sydney Golf Club.

Years later, after relocating to the Gold Coast, Terri worked as a pastry chef at Conrad Jupiters Hotel. Due to a stressful working environment and long hours, Terri found herself not eating properly, instead indulging in taste testing too many of the sweet treats she had prepared. She gained 10 kilos, and promptly took herself along to Weight Watchers. After losing the extra weight, Terri became a Weight Watchers leader, learning presentation skills and enhancing her ability to build rapport with others along the way.

A new business is born

After attending a day at a cooking school with friends “just for fun”, Terri hit upon the idea to set up her own cooking school.

“I thought, I can combine the presentation skills I learnt through Weight Watchers with my years of cooking experience to offer people something completely new and different,” she said.

After carrying out some initial research, getting Council permission and a food licence, Terri set up Tamborine Cooking School in her mountain top home in 2010.

The one-day courses range from Greek, Asian, Italian and Spanish to Morrocan, Modern Australian and Classic French. Visitors receive a hands-on session, where up to 8 courses of the selected cuisine are prepared by the group, then served accompanied by local wines and/or tea and coffee.  She has recently expanded her offering to include hosting hen’s parties, team building days, small groups and corporate events.

Setting Tamborine Cooking School apart

What makes Tamborine Cooking School special is the overall experience offered by Terri, her Mum June and husband David, who make everyone feel so welcome – I should know, I’ve been to the school three times! The inviting location, with views across the misty mountains to the west of the Tamborine plateau, is calming and restorative, and the ideal place to enjoy a leisurely lunch with fine cuisine and great company.

Terri sources the majority of her organic ingredients locally, with many of them grown in her own kitchen garden (which you’re welcome to explore during your day at the school). Other ingredients are either grown elsewhere on the Mountain or in the nearby Scenic Rim.

A big bump in the road

Just when things were going along swimmingly, Terri was stopped in her tracks by a surprise diagnosis of tonsil cancer in early 2012. She endured 3 rounds of chemotherapy, radiation treatment and a dramatic weight loss (as well as hair loss!). The cancer is now, thankfully, in remission, although she is required to undergo regular three-monthly check-ups to monitor her health.

“The worst part was losing my sense of taste. That made it a little challenging during the classes, but I’d just get people to taste things for me,” Terri said.

She now feels on top of the world and is enjoying life, especially spending time with treasured family and friends. Terri says having cancer has made her ready to take more risks and to continue to help others to improve their lifestyles. Passionate about healthy eating, Terri has joined forces with a local dietitian to run cooking and nutrition classes in the Tamborine Mountain community.

“If we can help one person improve their lifestyle, that’s great. If we can help lots of people, that’s even better!” she said.

What’s the recipe for Terri’s business success?

“Having a sense of humour, being friendly, approachable and genuinely interested in people are all important factors.”

What advice would Terri give to other women who want to turn their passion into a business?

“Do the groundwork first. Find out what skills you may need and go and do a TAFE course if you need to. Be community-minded and participate in local groups, women’s network and the like.”

What’s ahead for Terri?

“I’m looking forward to taking more opportunities, doing different things and generally getting more out of life. I want to run more community programs and hopefully teaching more people how easy it is to eat healthily.”

She has an upcoming stint as Celebrity Chef at the Goondiwindi Gourmet Weekend. She’s also interested in assisting the local Council in getting a food trail of her local area in place, with the hope of teaching others about eating locally and seasonally.

Thanks Terri – we wish you every success, good health and happiness – Lyndall 🙂

© Seize The Day Project, 2014. Article written by Lyndall Guinery-Smith