Since September 2011, Chef Paresh Thakkar has been serving up delicious food from Personal Touch Eatery & Catering. Opening his own business gave him the creative freedom to cook unique dishes with global flavours. “I watched my Mom and Grandma cook and learned by how they did things. There was never a recipe, they cooked by watching, tasting and smelling. I learned to cook by using my senses and wanted the space to do that for others.”

Originally, Thakkar attended Wilfrid Laurier University to become an accountant; his dad and grandpa were both in the field. After graduating, he worked in the financial industry and then operated a franchise for three years. While using his business skills, Thakkar really missed cooking on a daily basis. He decided to attend Culinary School at Fanshawe College in 2006. “I’m very happy to have earned both degrees. It has served my business well.” He’s also glad that he moved back to Sarnia to open his business. “I love Sarnia. I love the water, that’s a big draw. After a day in the kitchen, I can head for a swim in the lake.”

Thakkar was featured on an episode of Chopped Canada Season 3 on the Food Network. “The application process was pretty intense, including a portfolio submission, phone interview, and on-camera interview.” The entire episode was filmed in one day, which Thakkar said was a fun experience. While he didn’t win, he said it was a great opportunity. “I initially put together a viewing party for 50 to 100 people, and over 300 tickets were sold. I chose to donate to three local charities: The Inn of the Good Shepherd, One Tomato Project, and a culinary scholarship through 4Northern.”

Personal Touch is located at 144 Mitton St. South and is open Tuesday to Friday, 11:00-5:30. The menu includes eclectic sandwiches & wraps, a weekly feature, speciality fries and ever changing soups, salads, and dips. In addition, he has a freezer onsite with prepared meals and soups, created with inspiration from ingredients at the Sarnia Farmers Market.

Alongside the Eatery, Thakkar offers a variety of catering experiences and is famous for his in-home private dinners. The experience brings the restaurant into your home. The menu is created based on a questionnaire, with the final dishes being a surprise to the host and guests. The meal preparation is finished in the home, plated, served and cleaned, leaving clients with a dinner party experience like no other. The number of guests can range from four to as many as the host can accommodate for dining.

Thakkar enjoys leading demonstrations and teaching cooking classes, with offerings generally available at The Cheese Wedge in Point Edward. He is a big proponent of supporting local and collaborating with local businesses. His hummus and sauces are available at Great Lakes Refill Company, he regularly cooks for charitable functions, and he does pop-up events at many local breweries. Thakkar sits on the board of local charities 4Northern and #charitable, giving him the opportunity to give back to the community.