The first time Laura Fonner cooked a meal, a hole opened in the kitchen floor and a fire started in the basement. She was 10 years old at the time.
Decades later, she became a respected executive chef and owner of Siren, a popular Mediterranean-style seafood restaurant downtown.
“My passion is food and I was really, really lucky to understand it when I was really young.
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During her 17 years at Duner’s, Fonner has been promoted to executive chef, but that doesn’t overshadow her tenure at Ivy’s establishment.
I was grateful for the opportunities given to me at a young age and was driven by a desire to help the community. She reached out to local chefs and farmers she met through her work and asked for leftovers at their restaurants and farms. She began making meals from those surplus ingredients and donating them to homeless communities once a week through PACEM.
“It’s a basic necessity of life. We need to eat, but not everyone has the ability or the means to eat,” she said.
Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everything changed.
Not only was she unable to continue her philanthropic work, she had begun negotiations to purchase Duner’s three months before the pandemic officially began.
“You have to let life lead you in the direction it leads you,” said Fonner.
Her life took an interesting turn.
Fonner received a call from the Food Network and was asked to enter a television cooking contest.
As someone who battles anxiety, the idea of flying across the country to compete on camera was daunting, but she did it nonetheless. She is currently participating in her eight episodes of Guy’s Grocery Games, defeating other champions and winning $60,000 in prize money. A portion of these proceeds went towards opening her new restaurant, while a portion was donated directly to PACEM.
With the one-year anniversary just days away, Siren was a dream come true for Foner. The restaurant, which she designed and worked on with the help of her parents and friends, is meant to make you feel like you’ve come home, she says. The cozy interior is designed almost like a self-portrait…a talented chef. The staff is staffed by friendly waitstaff and skilled cooks, two of whom her Fonner has served over the years through her program at PACEM.
Fonner was nominated and selected as one of the Dozen Distinguished Members of the Year for her dedication to her community and her status as a role model to all who meet her. Her contagious enthusiasm is unmatched and her humble optimism is inspiring.
“This industry really humbles you and teaches you,” Fonner said. “I was lucky enough to find my passion. My passion just happens to be a basic necessity. Everyone has to eat.”
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