“Now that I look back, I wonder why on earth I wasn’t more frightened.”
BY JENNIFER COCKRALL-KING
O O K B O O K S A R E F U N N Y T H I N G S . T H E Y ’ R E N O T O R I - o u s l y d i f fi c u l t t o t u r n i n t o p r o fi t a b l e v e n t u r e s , y e t f o r e v e r y c l o s e t n o v e l i s t , t h e r e m u s t b e t w o c l o s e t c o o k b o o k a u t h o r s e a g e r t o l o s e t h e i r s h i r t s . T h e C other odd thing about cookbooks is that successful ones come from very unlikely places. A case in point is Jean Paré, a wedding and banquet
caterer who launched Canada’s most popular cookbook series from a spare bedroom in her home in Vermilion, just west of Lloydminster. With the help of her son, Grant Lovig (the co-founder and now CEO of Company’s Com- ing), she built a publishing powerhouse with $10 million in annual sales that releases eight to 10 new titles and sells more than one million cookbooks each year. Oh, and late bloomers take note: Paré didn’t publish her first book un- til she was 53 years old. Almost 25 years later, and with as much clarity and spring in her step as people half her age, she’s still going strong, arriving at work at 6 a.m., often with baking in hand – because she just can’t wait to get going on another day doing the work she loves.
Maybe it was her depression-era upbringing in Irma, Alberta. Jean Paré (pronounced “Gene Perry”) learned the art of putting a solid meal on the table and how to turn that meal into an occasion from her mother, and was told
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by her father that no obstacle is too great to overcome. Maybe it was having to pick up after a troubled marriage left her a young, single mother of four with nothing but the debts of an alcoholic, compulsive-gambling ex-hus- band. Somehow, Paré’s clear-thinking prairie practicality landed her squarely on both feet.
“My first catering job in 1963 was for over 1,000 peo- ple,” Paré laughs, still able to recount the menu of that successful first banquet. “Now that I look back, I wonder why on earth I wasn’t more frightened of it. I didn’t have enough sense to be scared.”
After 16 years of catering, she dove into cookbooks just as fearlessly. On her son’s advice, Paré concentrated on one subject, rather than appetizers to desserts and everything in between, like most other cookbooks at that time. Not interested in handing a manuscript over to a publisher, Paré wanted to write, design, sell and distribute the book herself. In 1981, she self-published 150 Delicious Squares, a book that is still in print and that has sold well over a million copies. “I fixed everything that I didn’t like about cookbooks,” explains Paré. A lay-flat book binding, user-friendly indexes, tried-and-true recipes, full-colour photos cross-referenced with recipe names and page num- bers, slightly larger text for readability, and simple recipes