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Women in Leadership: How our corporate chef, Samantha Lazuric, hones her passion for food to inspire, educate, and make a difference to those around her

Women in Leadership: Chef Sam

Through the power of food, Samantha aka ‘Chef Sam’ strives to bring stories to life and deliver the best results and creativity — one meal at a time.

It’s not every company that has a corporate chef on hand to whip up tasty dishes and educate others about the importance of adding a dash of deep passion and sustainability into every dish they prepare. But Maple Leaf Foods is inspired to have corporate chef Samantha Lazuric aka ‘Chef Sam’ who strives to prepare both meals and learnings for our consumers, team members, and business partners.

Celebrating 10 years with Maple Leaf in February 2023, Chef Sam has evolved her position within the organization over the past decade and brings pride and passion to her dream career every day. Chef Sam began her career at Maple Leaf Foods as an assistant recipe developer and food stylist and then progressed to work with almost every business channel across our organization in a multitude of capacities.

While some projects require collaboration and creativity, others put Chef Sam’s intense strategic, and focused planning skills to the test. But they all require intentional best-in-class results. It’s an artful balancing act!

What brought you to Maple Leaf Foods?

A well-known contract Food Stylist was hired by Maple Leaf to assist the corporate chef for commercial photography. At the time, I was apprenticing for her, and she brought me along to support. I knew from the moment I finished the first day that Maple Leaf would become home for me. My sights were set. A few months later, I entered a culinary competition (which isn’t something I would normally EVER do or have done since.) I ended up winning. As part of the prize, I got to spend the day at Maple Leaf’s office. Now, 10 years later, just as I had known that first day — I found a home and my dream career.

What made you stay?

The people and the versatility in the role.

Without question, it really is about the people. We have a collection of talented, highly functioning, driven, motivated, tireless, and goal-orientated individuals. It’s inspiring to work amongst this calibre of people.

I never have the same day twice. This job keeps me agile and nimble, creative, and incredibly engaged.

Why is gender equity so important in the workplace?

Closing gender gaps means making progress towards stimulating incomes and bridging socio-economic growth, finding solutions towards food insecurity, freedom from discrimination, and strengthening inclusivity. Working to close the disparity is essential for future generations to succeed. We ALL have so much to offer.

How do you define your purpose at Maple Leaf?

My purpose is to tell our story through food. I act as the conduit between Research, Development and Technology (RDT), Marketing, and Sales to bring their story to life for our consumers and internal and external business partners.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?

There’s no single standout — there have been so many over the years.

My proudest accomplishments are those where if we have achieved success and I’ve supported in some way — that makes me extraordinarily proud. I look through the lens of anyone I’ve assisted or supported and if it has led to a positive outcome and the WIN they were hoping for — then mission accomplished. I’ll also add that I’m extremely proud of any contribution I make towards our sustainability goals and initiatives.

What do you wish people understood better about what you do?

That it’s more than just simply preparing food. There’s an entire set of processes to how I enter into everything that’s asked of me. Because I work with almost every business channel, the needs are always different. The desired outcome for success varies so significantly for everyone and I have a responsibility to deliver what the best result could be. This takes an extreme amount of planning and orchestrated delivery.

If you needed inspiration and could have lunch with any woman you admire, alive or dead, who would it be? Why?

I have the great privilege to have lunch daily with the woman I admire the most: my mom. From my earliest memory, she has encouraged me to be fearless. She instilled in me the best advice I carry with me always. I use it when I approach anything where I may not feel confident or where my anxiety gets the better of me. The advice is not ground-breaking, but how I look at it has great depth and meaning. She says, “you won’t know if you don’t try, have faith.” Even when I failed, the lessons and how we talked through them shaped the course of my life. She leads by example and I witnessed it time over time.

However, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull up a chair for Julia Childs and Maya Angelou. Table for four please.

Do you have a personal motto?

“The only person you should try and be better than is the person you were yesterday.” — Matty Mullins

To me, this means comparing yourself to anyone is a waste of your time. Place your energy and focus elsewhere. Don’t give power to negative self-talk as it serves zero purpose.

When you retire, how do you hope you’ll be remembered?

Simply that I really cared. I cared about my relationships that were forged, nurtured, and cultivated. I cared about the quality of my work, our goals and our accomplishments as an organization with diverse teams, and that I cared about the food. I cared deeply about every little detail because I cared about you.

What advice do you have for women in the early stages of their career?

  • Learn everything you can in the role you’re in. Educate yourself. Always take the extra step, never short cuts. This is what distinguishes you from others. Through education and experience, you earn credibility.
  • Learn from the people around you that you admire and who are successful. Ask questions!
  • Be courageous and take chances when they present themselves. Don’t just like what you do. Love what you do. It makes all the difference in the world and it will become glaringly apparent in the way you work.
  • Don’t let ambition be your sole driver — make space for all the other pieces that will build your career. It will keep you humble and grounded.
  • Stay close to your authentic self, your future self will thank you.