When life gives you lemons, turn them into lemonade – or better yet pizza.
That’s what Thompson born and raised Jacky Colombe, 28, did when he found himself out of a job less than a year after moving south to Winnipeg to be with his girlfriend. He was working at a pizza restaurant at The Forks when he got laid off as a result of the effects of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
“I was really missing home, going through a tough time there, missing my family,’ says Colombe.
He was also missing the pizza from his hometown, which he knew well from his five years working at Santa Maria. “That’s where I really honed my skills as a pizza cook. My brother told me to try and make one, recreate it as best I can so I did and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe what I’d done in the kitchen. It was mind-blowing to me.”
He continued with his cooking, making pizzas for his friends and family.
“It really reminded them of home too,” he said, describing his pizzas as “hefty” and “a meal in itself," with a sweet, tangy and smoky taste.
“I just tried to get it close as I can to pizza in Thompson,” said Colombe, who started his cooking career while he was still a student at R.D. Parker Collegiate, working at Pizza Hut where he eventually became an assistant manager. “I’m just paying almost homage to Santa Maria. I just tried to recreate it all by taste.”
With the success of his homemade pizza, Colombe’s brother Kenny Braun convinced him to rent a commercial kitchen and try to make some money from his talents. He took that advice and has been using a kitchen at a community centre in Osborne two days a week since the very end of December.
“It's challenging on its own and it’s exciting, too,” he says, admitting that he never saw himself becoming a food entrepreneur and that he didn’t give it a great deal of thought before jumping in with both feet to see what might happen.
Some days, Colombe sells 30 pizzas, relying on Facebook and word of mouth to generate new business.
“It’s really good when the pizza sells itself,” he says. “I get a lot of joy out of people saying, ‘Oh this reminds me of home, I can’t believe it, I looked everywhere for this,’ so that really puts a smile on my face.”
Colombe says he’d like to make Thompson-style pizza more than two days a week if he could and that he plans to continue the business as long as he can, every day if possible.
“That would be my goal.”