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Meet Aman. Aman Dosanj is the founder of The Paisley Notebook. When she’s not encouraging you to reimagine the food you eat, you’ll find Aman taking the time to enjoy the Okanagan and connecting with her community of farmers.
Where are you from?
I am from Southampton, England, originally. In 2008, my dad got sick. It was a now or never thing. He ended up having a triple bypass surgery when he went to India and, on his way back home to England, I got a call that he had a stroke on the plane. Because of that, we decided to quit our jobs and move to a country I’d never been to, Canada. My parents bought a house and then we opened Poppadoms during the recession.
Where do you work in the Okanagan now?
The Paisley Notebook is my company, it’s sort of an umbrella brand. Sourced is the outdoor dinner series I run along with other pop-ups like Secret Dinner. I’m also launching some spice blends, edible adventures, and I’ve got a market bag that’s made by a social enterprise non-profit in BC by women. There’s so much girl power in that. I’ve also started doing some how-to cooking videos where you can invite me into your home to create some positive, cool memories.
How did you get into this kind of work?
After we sold Poppadoms, I decided to go travelling for 7 and a half months and write about how food connects us. But 2016 was the year the world finally broke. A lot of racism, anti-immigration, and messed up things were happening around the world. There was a heightened sense of fear and discrimination. Despite that, I started asking random people to invite me into their home and share a food memory with me. I went out as a stranger, but so many people brought me into their homes to share a meal. I started to see this pattern of sharing stories about grandma, or what the kitchen or meal meant to them. It was really interesting to find someone in Cambodia who could have a very relatable story to someone in Canada. For me, people need to be reminded of the similarities in order to accept the differences.
What made you start your outdoor dinner series?
With the stories I had heard abroad, I decided to do pop-up dinners and called it ‘Sourced’. The idea was to bring people along on my travels. I started telling stories and creating dishes based on the people that I had met. Every dinner you come to is going to look and taste different. We take people to farms, direct to the source. Not every farm is the same. We need to be mindful of conventional farming and spraying—asking whether their values sync up to your own. Everyone likes to focus on the chef but great food starts on the farm, and the Okanagan Valley is my secret weapon.
What have you learned from running The Paisley Notebook?
The way I learn about the world is through food, everyone has to eat. It’s already that common factor we all share. So we can all connect by talking about food. But, in order to learn we all need to listen—not just listen, you need to shut the f*ck up and actively listen. If you give someone that time to talk, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you look like, or what your background is, you will find an awesome story.
What are some challenges you’ve come across?
It’s hard when you don’t fit in. I’m not a restaurant and I’m not a caterer. I’m in this grey area, which can be a lonely place. It’s frustrating when you know that the work you’re doing is good and yet people don’t see you. I won the Culinary Tourism Experience award from Canadian Tourism in 2018 for my dinners and I didn’t get any media out of it. I know that what I do is good, unique and special, but there comes a point where you need someone to see you and help.
Paisley is very personal to you, what would you say to someone looking to pursue a similarly personal venture?
Everyone needs a f*ck you project, and Paisley is mine. It’s my safe space where I can be dark and twisty, share stories and be raw to bring people in. I wanted to use it to make a difference. To date, Paisley has raised $60,000 for charity, and I’m a one-person team. It’s not that difficult to do if you want to do it. But you’re going to have to want to do it. It’s fine coming up with a statement, but you need to back it up. Why is it important to you? Why do you want to do it? What is your purpose and what is your endgame?
How do you like to give back to the community?
For 4 years, I’ve been running this charity event for International Women’s Day. We focus on female chefs and winemakers in the industry. It’s been such a privilege to find these amazing women in wine. Historically, it’s been an old boys club. Now, you go to wineries around the Okanagan and find so many female winemakers behind the bottle with amazing stories.