Honorary degree for top-selling cookbook author< More Stories
“Now they are entering the real world and the main thing is to keep learning and to do something that they’ll enjoy,” said Paré. “I know I always enjoyed my work and ended up with a company that was like extended family. It was such a pleasure to work with everybody.”
Well-thumbed, shared by friends and family, and even soiled by recipe ingredients, Company’s Coming cookbooks are fixtures in kitchens throughout Canada and around the world, thanks to Paré.
Born in Irma, Alta., Paré’s career in the kitchen began in the 1960s when she opened a café in her hometown of Vermilion, Alta. She moved on to run a home-based catering service for more than 18 years.
Her first catering job was in 1963 for 1,000 guests at the 50th anniversary of the Vermilion School of Agriculture, now Lakeland College. “We had no refrigeration and no heat at the college. It was a challenge alright, but it turned out well. I found that I just enjoyed it so much that I thought I would be a caterer forever. But then as result of all that catering, came the cookbooks. Then I thought I would be doing that forever. However, when I got to 83, I decided to retire,” says Paré, with a laugh.
Fifty-three years after her first catering job, Paré was recognized as Lakeland College’s Distinguished Citizen and was presented with an Honorary Bachelor of Applied Business Degree during the Vermilion campus convocation
In 1981, Paré wrote and published her first cookbook – 150 Delicious Squares – focusing on popular treats from her catering events. The first printing of 15,000 copies sold out in less than six weeks. That proved to be the first of many cookbooks in the Company’s Coming series that Paré authored.
Paré’s easy-to-follow recipes using readily available ingredients led to sales of more than 30 million Company’s Coming cookbooks before her retirement in 2010. As one of the top-selling cookbook authors in the world, Paré’s name appears on more than 200 cookbooks.
“Over the years I received letters from many people who learned how to cook through these books. The youngest one who wrote was six years old and the oldest was 94. When I wrote Cooking for Two, there happened to be a Vermilion boy who was heading off to university and his mother gave him that book. He wrote me a letter telling me about how he enjoyed the book but that the odd recipe only served one,” she said, with a laugh.
Paré’s culinary passion led her to amass more than 6,000 cookbooks – an impressive collection that she donated to the Culinary Collections at the University of Guelph in 2011. In 2003, Paré was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee Medal, and in 2004 she was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
Photos: Board of Governors Chair Darrel Howell and President Alice Wainwright-Stewart presented Jean Paré with an honorary degree during the Vermilion campus morning convocation ceremony on June 3.