All the best cheese and cured meats folded into the delicate shape of a rose surrounded by fruits, crackers and other assorted goods all on perfect display on a platter can make even the most ordinary day feel luxurious.
Lena Morelli, 25, has brought this small piece of delicious luxury to Fort Frances with her business Eat Best Charcuterie. Morelli began her business just three months ago and is already in high demand.
“I’ve just been rolling with it, and I couldn’t be more grateful to how supportive the community is and how good the reviews have been,” Morelli said. “I’m just constantly learning and it’s crazy to think that something like this could take off so well in such a small town.”
Morelli went to culinary school at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ont. and moved back to Fort Frances in May 2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic. With no ability to work, Morelli had to find creative ways to continue her love of the culinary arts.
Morelli said she was talking to her cousin who was also out of work about what could be popular for valentine’s day, and they thought to make charcuterie platters.
“I’ve always loved doing it, I’ve done it at past restaurants that I’ve worked in and then it took off so quickly that we did a bunch of them,” Morelli said. “I didn’t even have the plan to make it into a full-on business, but I kept getting messages and I had repeat orders and it’s literally been like that since.”
Morelli said she is just about to write her Red Seal Chef exam which means that her culinary skills will be recognized equally across all provinces and territories in Canada.
Morelli said she has been offered a few jobs but is focused on expanding her growing business.
“This is the goal full time,” Morelli said. “I’m excited to grow into so many other things. I want to start offering weeknight dinners and lunches like sandwiches and Italian cured meats have always been where my passion is.”
While COVID has not had a huge impact on her business, Morelli said because she is limited to the grocers in town, she does struggle to find some supplies for the platters.
“I can’t wait until I can go to Winnipeg and get things from Costco.,” Morelli said. “It’s so hard to find cheese and meat for delivery because it has to be packaged accordingly so I’m finding things but for the most part it is hard to source them. “
Morelli said authentic Italian cured meats are the most difficult to find.
Morelli is currently running the business alone juggling social media, scheduling, bookkeeping and making and packing all the orders with the occasional helping hand from her mom and partner.
Morelli said her mom is a big inspiration for her love of cooking, adding that growing up her mom was never one to make classic dishes like shepherd’s pie.
“She loves trying new flavours and she was so good at going into the fridge, looking at the leftovers and just making something amazing,” Morelli said. “Charcuterie falls into that where you can just kind of look and see what you have and throw it on a board, and you get to play with flavours and colours and textures. It’s my favourite way of eating and the fact that I can share that with the community is awesome.”
Morelli said her eventual goal is to open a deli style shop in Fort Frances.
“This would be the perfect place to do it,” Morelli said. “Nothing crazy big, just a sandwich shop that you can come and get fresh smoothies, fresh salads and soups to go.”
Morelli adds that she would also like to have a sit-down area where people can grab a cup of coffee and then come nighttime, flip it to a nice place where people can sit, eat, have a drink and listen to music.
Aside from growing her business, Morelli said her goal one day is to do a three-month cooking course on pasta and pizza in Italy because her Italian grandfather who passed away a few years ago was not able to pass all of his culinary knowledge to her.
Morelli said the support from the community has been overwhelming and is grateful that it has turned into something sustainable.
“It started so organically, and it came from such a good place and better than I ever imagined,” Morelli said. “I’m just so glad that I did it when I did, and I’ve got the support from the people that are close to me and the community.”