Joanna Machacek Wilson from Rouge Kitchen has drawn upon her vast experience in the food industry
along with a lot of research to come up with her delicious gluten-free menu items

By Julie Plante

I had the pleasure of speaking last month with Joanna Machacek Wilson from Rouge Kitchen, learning a bit about Joanna, her family and the business. Rouge Kitchen opened in December 2018 and was originally a juice bar, but after about a year she realized that wasn’t sustainable and not the direction she wanted for the business. So Rouge Kitchen was reinvented by focusing on gluten-free comfort food.

It’s quite incredible that Joanna has drawn upon her vast experience in the food industry, starting as a bartender and server in restaurants since she was 17 years old, along with a lot of research to come up with her gluten-free menu items. For the schooling side, Joanna attended George Brown College Culinary Arts Program.

Rouge Kitchen has impressive reviews on Google, Uber Eats and Facebook with Joanna replying to the comments. “We want our customers to know we care,” she said. “Our customers are not just a dollar sign.” Philly cheesesteak is the # 1 bestseller, followed by the bacon deluxe cheeseburger and mac and cheese. Lobster rolls are popular but they’resold only from the spring to the summer.

They are an entrepreneurial family with Joanna’s husband, Jeff, also owning his own business, Adaptability Canada. They have lived in this area for over 20 years. Jeff also helps out here and there at Rouge Kitchen along with their three children, Gavin, Kiefer and Mallory. In fact, Joanna’s seasonal shortbread cookies are named after Mallory, whose middle name is Violet. Violet’s Shortbreads are sold at Christmastime and they are delicious (I can attest to that)! Joanna has developed her shortbread recipe to perfection and likes to put her different toppings on the cookies as opposed to in the batter. She refers to them as “dainty.”

Rouge Kitchen did well during COVID, although not so much during the first two months as they had been open for just over a year and were moving away from the juicing aspect. After that, with everyone being stuck at home and having to cook meals day in day out, the business thrived when it was appreciated that you could call, place your order and have healthy meals ready for pickup. Seventy-five percent of the food orders are still phone-in and 25 percent are walk-in.

The business has grown and Joanna now employs four people. All get over 30 hours a week and she has one full-time employee as well as a baker who comes in at 7:30 a.m. to help with the gluten-free baking. Rouge Kitchen has joined a program called “Too Good To Go,” which focuses on not wasting food that can be purchased through the app. There are 206,821 active businesses on the platform. Kind of the same premise as day-old bread at the grocery store being sold at a discounted price.

For downtime, Joanna enjoys a big glass of wine and watches TV to decompress, especially Sherlock. (While Joanna and I were talking, we both discovered that if we could have chosen another career path, it would be that of a Private Eye. Who knows? One day Joanna and I might open our own Private Investigation company and call it J&J Investigations.) If she watches any reality TV, it’s Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, which reminds Joanna of what she is not and that Gordon will never come a-calling.