One Penticton resident is stuck between her crêpes and a hard place when it comes to expanding her overwhelmingly successful business.
Carole Dumestre, owner and crêpiere chef at the French-inspired Crêperie Ooolala, has been struggling to hire a competent staff member to assist her with her business, which has been operating at 1099 Lakeshore Dr. for the past 10 years.
“I have too many demands, and I only have two arms to fit everybody so it’s just too much on me. I’ve been able to keep going because of the support of my relatives, my customers and my friends,” said Dumestre. “But I’m at the point because I really need to get someone else because I’m totally exhausted.”
Originally from France, Dumestre decided to look back to her country of origin in seeking a qualified crêpiere chef, as they would have more specialized training in making crêpes than a Canadian one. This is how she came to secure the interest of a chef that recently completed his training in a culinary school in France dedicated to making crêpes.
“As a crêpe maker, it’s really hard to find these skills in Canada. We have a special school in the northwest of France where people go to train to work in crêperies all over the world,” said Dumestre. “So it’s a France specialty. Making a crêpe may look easy, but making 100 – which I make in a day –at the right temperature with the right process and everything takes experience and knowledge.”
Dumestre applied to bring this chef to Canada in a chef position at her business through the French Mobility program of the immigration system, which aims to bring French culture to Canada, not including in Quebec. She was shocked that not only did it take the program 10 weeks to get back to her about her application, but that it was ultimately denied.
This is when Dumestre took her frustrations to the office of the South Okanagan – West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings, to receive assistance with appealing the decision. His constituency assistant, Andrina Calvert, performed the case work for Dumestre and explained the program’s justification for its decision.
“The application is looked at in France, and the French immigration officers decide what is French culture in Canada,” said Calvert. “Which to the average Joe could be a bit backwards. It should be the Canadian people to decide what French culture we want in Canada, however this is the system and we must work within it.
Calvert explained that the French immigration officer handling the application decided “there is no equivalent crêpiere position in Canada, therefore it does not fit this particular code for a chef,” since every position is coded.
“Because we don’t have a specialized crêpiere position in Canada, the immigration officer said ‘You don’t fit.’ (in terms of being a chef) and said they could be a kitchen worker, or a regular cook but we don’t have crêpiere chefs in Canada,” said Calvert. “And Carole is saying, ‘Exactly!’ and it fits the program because it brings French culture through cuisine to Canada outside of Quebec.”
Dumestre said she is not sure what options she will have left if the appeal is not successful, as she desperately needs competent help to keep her business afloat. In the meantime, she is grateful for the support her friends, family and customers have shown her.
To assist with her appeal, Dumestre took to her business’s Facebook page and explained the situation she is facing to her followers. She asked any interested customers to send her testimonials stating that her business brings French culture to Penticton, and said she has recieved many wonderful write-ups.
“In 24 hours I had more than 20 testimonies with people saying they wanted me to stay open and that they think it’s very important for the community,” said Dumestre. “And I had 100 signatures on a petition as well. So all that support, I don’t know if it’s going to help but it has helped me to keep going and not give up.”
Whether or not these gathered testimonials will have any sway on her appeal is unknown. Calvert said Dumestre should receive a response to her appeal, which was sent last week, in 10 business days.
“It all depends on the immigration officer at the other end who is working on the file. We’re all human, and we’ve had cases with visitor visa cases – not work permits – where people have had to apply three, four or five times before it’s approved,” said Calvert. “It’s not easy to come to Canada, as much as people think it is. It’s not easy, not even as a visitor.”
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