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Chris Niddrie - Thursday, January 19, 2012

Let’s start with an introduction from me. I’m Chris, the owner of Copper Pot Creations. I’ve worked in the culinary industry since I was 16 years old. I graduated from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology with a cooking diploma, completed my Journeyman, received my Red Seal certification and continued on to achieve a Certified Chef de Cuisine designation from the Canadian Culinary Institute by the time I was 27. I worked in various restaurants, hotels and private clubs and it soon became clear to me that being a chef was hard work, long hours, and very little time off. This was just as my wife Crystal and I had started a family- I would leave for work while Crystal and the baby were sleeping, and I would usually get home after they had gone to bed. If I was lucky, I would get one day a week off work but I was not usually that lucky.

After working for over a decade in the culinary industry, Crystal and I decided to try and start our own company where I could continue using my skills but have a more flexible work schedule. I suppose we thought that starting our own business would give us more time together as a family. I first started working as a personal chef (cooking in people’s homes) on a part time basis until it led to full time work. Crystal did all the paperwork, accounting and marketing while taking care of our now 2 children at home. I quickly filled my weekly schedule but soon got tired of hauling pots, pans and ingredients with me to different places every day. We dreamed of opening our own commercial kitchen to work from, where I could cook in larger batches and deliver directly to my clients. After many months of planning and design, we made our dream a reality in 2006 when we opened our new provincially inspected commercial kitchen just in time for the Christmas catering season. We not only offered home cooked meals for delivery, but we also offered catering services. Business grew quickly and instead of having more time together as a family, we seemed to have much less now.

We hired staff but I was still working many long days and nights to keep up with the business. Around this time, I probably wasn’t taking care of myself as I should have. I didn’t sleep much, I didn’t eat much and I worked way too much. I lost about 40 pounds (almost 25% of my body weight) and my family started to become concerned. It wasn’t until our family Mexico vacation in 2008 that I realized something was seriously wrong. I could not quench my continual thirst, I felt horrible and could barely stand up. My kids were playing in the ocean wanting me to join in, and I had to force myself out of the chair to spend just a few minutes with them. This went on for a whole week, and when we finally returned home, I made my way directly to the hospital emergency room.

In short, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease just a month short of my 30th birthday. My whole life changed that week I spent in the hospital. I was told that not only would I have to administer insulin to myself by needle injection a few times a day, but I could no longer eat anything containing gluten, no exceptions! They had done an intestinal biopsy and the damage was quite severe. Not adhering to a strict gluten free diet for life would certainly cause more damage and problems for me. As if this wasn’t enough bad news…the reality was that I could no longer taste most of the things I was cooking in my business. Pasta, bread, soups, sauces, most of what I needed to taste I couldn’t anymore. How on earth was I going to continue to run my business? This was my family’s sole income and we needed to find a way to make this work.

Join my next post as I continue my story and tell how we embraced change and made Copper Pot Creations into the innovative company it is today.


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