We sat down with Cambridge, Ontario native now Capital City food and cocktail content creator, Yvonne Langen, about following her passion from the early age of 12 and her journey to now being an entrepreneur, media personality and the businesswoman in front of the camera and behind the scenes of the Taste & Tipple brand.
Spotlight: Tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, what you like to do in your spare time when you are not entertaining people online or working your full-time gig. Are your parents outgoing like yourself?
Yvonne Langen: I’m a real card, just ask my mother. Growing up as an only child in Cambridge, Ontario, I always had a captive audience with my parents and their friends. I quickly learned to love being in the limelight and would seize on any opportunity to steal the show. My parents are entrepreneurs, and my mom has been helming their logistics company for the past 25 years.
As business owners, they often worked long hours and needed to find creative ways to keep me occupied over summer holidays. They signed me up for every variety of day camp imaginable, from tennis to drama camp and everything in between – I even spent a week participating in a bowling camp (sadly, bowling isn’t a highly transferable skill).
My love of sport that was first nurtured in those early years and has since endured. When I’m not cooking, shaking up drinks or discovering a new restaurant, you’ll probably find me in the gym, on the yoga mat, or hitting winners on the tennis court.
Spotlight: You are extremely comfortable in front of the screen and have a unique ability to connect and engage with your viewers. So, tell us about your education, experience and professional background that build this confidence to entertain and educate people at the same time.
Yvonne Langen: I have a Bachelor of Journalism with Combined Honours in Women’s Studies from Carleton University and a Master of Arts in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Toronto. Journalism school helped me get comfortable working both behind and in front of the camera. Since graduating, I have spent most of my career in relationship management and sales – I love getting to meet and talk to new people, it helps to satisfy my insatiable curiosity.
Spotlight: You played field hockey for both the Carleton University Ravens and the U of T Varsity Blues. Can you tell us about your experience playing varsity sports for both schools? How were you able to balance school and athletic activities? During your final year of CIS eligibility with the Varsity Blues, you and the team captured the CIS national championship title. What was that experience like? What sports are you active in now?
Yvonne Langen: I always prioritized academics over athletics because there aren’t many paid jobs on the field hockey pitch. The School of Journalism at Carleton is highly regarded across the country and, at the time, I was convinced that I wanted to find myself behind the anchor desk at SportsNet after graduation.
While I found success in the classroom in my double major, the outcomes on the pitch were a bit less dazzling. We had a lot of changes in coaching in my four years at Carleton and it was hard to build consistency with a rotating cast of coaches. To be honest, I don’t think we won a single match in my last two years as a Raven.
When I pursued graduate school at U of T, I earned a spot on the starting line-up of the Varsity Blues, one of the winningest programs in the country. After a few years of losing records at Carleton, it was a welcome relief to conclude my CIS career with a national championship ring.
Spotlight: When did you start to become interested in Food & Cocktails? Where did the idea and concept for Taste & Tipple come from?
Yvonne Langen: My parents were busy entrepreneurs and in the 90s we didn’t have the same kind of foodie culture that we have today. As a result, dinner at our house often defaulted to whatever was quick and easy. Each week featured the same rotation of dishes: salmon with rice, my dad’s famous spaghetti Bolognese (I can still devour an entire plate of this in less than 2 minutes), pork chops with apple sauce, and steak and potatoes. On days we didn’t eat at home, we would venture to my parents’ favourite fine dining establishment in Cambridge, where I first discovered a wider world of flavour possibilities, and I’d always get to order dessert (something I still do, even at business lunches).
By the time I was 12, the menu at Chez Langen was getting a bit tired, in my entitled pre-teen opinion. I’m still shocked the Michelin Guide didn’t ask me to weigh in on the world’s best restaurants with my sophisticated pubescent palate.
Just before I went away to a sleep-over camp (an all-girls camp with UNIFORMS) for the first time, I unearthed an old paperback cookbook with 80s era sepia tone food photography and an inexplicable amount of cream cheese content. I was overjoyed. Being the total tyrant I was, I earmarked a few recipes and assigned my parents culinary homework to practice and perfect in my fortnight sojourn. When I returned home sunburnt and overstimulated, I learned they’d made only one of the dishes I’d assigned. I made no attempt to disguise my disappointment. So, when I finished sulking, I assumed the mantle and made the rest, with their supervision and swore, “When I grow up, I’ll never eat the same thing twice in a month.”
After moving out on my own, I honored that commitment and started experimenting with more gourmet meals and different cuisines. At the same time, I became legal drinking age and fell in love with the Food & Drink magazine from the LCBO and began dabbling with craft cocktails. The rest is history and I now hope to one day be featured in the pages of Food & Drink.
Spotlight: Taste and Tipple has become so much more than just exploring food and alcohol, it has become a lifestyle brand. Can you tell us how the brand has changed over the last four years? How do you balance your full-time job and your side hustle?
Yvonne Langen: In the first couple of years of blogging, I wanted to keep the focus squarely on the recipes. I was apprehensive about centering myself in the work because so many of the food bloggers I admire almost never showed or shared much of themselves.
In February 2020, my motivation was flagging. I wasn’t seeing the growth I wanted and was questioning whether to continue on with this passion project or call it quits and have more time to myself. When the pandemic hit a month later, I began hosting a virtual happy hour on my Instagram Story to help create a sense of togetherness, even while we had to be apart. I showed my followers how to craft a classic, modern classic, or original cocktail recipes. There was immediate uptake, and my audience was keen to shake and stir along with me.
My growth exploded and I gradually became more comfortable in front of the camera – reorienting my content to be largely personality-driven. While it’s been a tremendously challenging 15 months, the pandemic allowed me to define my mission, vision and values in a way I hadn’t before. Now, my focus is on taking the intimidation factor out of cocktails by making it fun and accessible, especially for other women. At the time of this publication, I’ve now hosted 200 episodes of my Virtual Happy Hour series and have been able to transition an unpaid hobby into a thriving business.
How do I do it all? Well, If I’m honest, balance is a pipe dream at this point. I work a lot – about 60-75 hours a week between my day job and Taste & Tipple. I don’t celebrate hustle culture or “the grind” as I think those philosophies create unhealthy relationships with work and a compulsion to be constantly productive. I work this much because I hope to one day be in a position to make my passion project my full-time gig and I have concrete milestones I’m trying to hit to make that a reality.
Spotlight: Balancing a passion project and a full-time gig for 60-75 hours a week sounds exhausting. Can you run us through a typical workday in the life of Yvonne?
Yvonne Langen: I’m trying to improve my mobility and flexibility at the moment and am in the midst of a 108-day yoga challenge, so I start my day with yoga. I have personal training (via Zoom) right after yoga, three times a week. I clock in for my day job as the Director of Business Development and Marketing at national market research firm Abacus Data at 9 a.m. I work until 5, sometimes squeezing in some chores around the house while we’re working from home.
I usually check in on social media once in the morning and again at mid-afternoon to post or respond to messages. I host Virtual Happy Hour on Tuesdays and Fridays at 5 pm ET in my Instagram Story. I spend the bulk of my evenings and weekends creating recipes, photographing/filming them, editing, drafting blog and social posts, liaising with brand partners and connecting with my online community.
Spotlight: What mentors did, or do you have now? You inspire many, but who inspires you and why?
Yvonne Langen: My business has experienced a lot of growth over the past year, and I needed support and guidance in scaling up. I worked with Amanda Chen, founder of Salty Paloma, as my business coach for several months and she helped me enormously in goalsetting, reflecting, and growing. As a fellow cocktail content creator with her own line of drink rimmers and now cocktail kits, she was able to relate to and inform the work that I do.
I’m also inspired by the photographic talents of other creators. Their creativity pushes me to look at and capture food and drink in new ways.
Spotlight: As a Media Personality you have become a role model for women, empowering women to be themselves and not be afraid to stand up for what you believe in and share your voice with others. What advice do you have for females or any readers for that matter when it comes to going after your dreams and staying true to yourself in the journey?
Yvonne Langen: I’ve always found it disheartening that there are so few examples of multifaceted, irreverent, independent women in media – especially in scripted programming. Like it or not, I always show up online, on TV, in print, and on the radio as my authentic self.
I look like a lady, but I swear like a drunken sailor, I can be vulnerable or totally outrageous, I’m passionate and energetic but sometimes I’m downright exhausted. It’s taken time to become more comfortable sharing all the sides of myself online but each time I’ve been brave enough to share something new, I’m met with compassion and it creates space for conversation and camaraderie with my audience.
It might not appeal to everyone but if I am true to myself and my purpose, I know my message will find the right people and inspire others. For other women interested in exploring entrepreneurship or content creation, take time to first understand what your orienting ethos and purpose are and let those guide everything you do. Also, know your worth and charge accordingly!
Spotlight: Where can readers follow you and get more information about you and the Taste and Tipple Brand? Are you on social media? Do you offer any other in person services as part of Taste and Tipple, such things as MCing or hosting live events? If so, how would someone go about contacting you about these opportunities?
Yvonne Langen: You can follow me on Instagram @tasteandtipple, visit the blog for all my original recipes and content at tasteandtipple.ca or watch past episodes from Virtual Happy Hour on my YouTube channel – simply search for Taste and Tipple on the platform.
For food, drink & lifestyle brands, I offer content creation services including recipe development, photography, and influencer marketing, including regional and national TV, print or radio spots. I also offer bespoke virtual or in-person cocktail classes for corporate clients – whether you’re hosting an AGM, board meeting, or team-building event I can lead a hands-on cocktail/mocktail workshop for your group.
If you’re looking to get the party started at a charity gala, awards show, or conference, I’m available as an emcee or host. For any business inquiries, please reach out to me via email at email@example.com.
Spotlight: Where do you see yourself professionally in the next 5 years?
Yvonne Langen: I anticipate that in five years, I’ll be an award-winning television host of a popular cocktail show and have had my first book of cocktail recipes/humorous essays published. I’ll be living somewhere that doesn’t experience the bone-chilling winters we get here in Canada’s capital.
If you want to view more of Yvonne’s content you can follow her on Instagram @tasteandtipple, visit the blog for all my original recipes and content at tasteandtipple.ca or you can you watch past episodes from Virtual Happy Hour on her YouTube channel – simply search for Taste and Tipple on the platform, then grab your ingredients and start mixing.
by Lee Ann Atwater