5 Questions for Élise Tastet

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There’s never a dull morning with Élise Tastet! Whether she’s running to meet with investors over breakfast, walking her 2-year-old son to daycare or speaking at a conference on artificial intelligence, she’s always jumping from one project to the next, her brain constantly buzzing with new ideas — and her coffee travel mug never far from reach. 

Élise was only 22 when she started a little website called Tastet from her living room. A decade later, that ‘little website’ — which you’re reading right now — has turned into a 10-employee tech startup, and she is recognized as one of the foremost advocates for Montreal’s gastronomy. 

We sat down for coffee with our brilliant founder and CEO to chat about her morning routine, her life as an entrepreneur and her inspirations.

What’s your morning routine?

I wake up early, around 6AM. I check my inbox and social media, check the weather (always important in our climate!), then hop in the shower. By then my son Laurent is up and about and he likes to help me make my coffee using my Nespresso Vertuo coffee machine. He’s been doing it since he was 1 and a half. I’m always so proud when he hands me the mug! I eat a quick breakfast, then it’s off to daycare with Laurent and my dog Lucie, who’s 16 but still going strong. I like getting to the office early so I can get some work done before everyone starts coming in.

How do you take your coffee?

To go! I’m always on the move, busy with investor meetings and new restaurants to try, so I carry my travel mug with me at all times. I like a latté with no sugar and not too much foam. The Gran Lungo Costa Rica is perfect for me because it has a nice balance but it’s strong enough to keep me going through the day. It’s a long coffee but it’s full-bodied and makes a very good crema.

How do you manage to stay focused with such a busy lifestyle?

Coffee! I can’t go without lots of coffee in the morning! Kidding aside, as an entrepreneur, it’s not always easy to separate my work from my private life. I try to block out time in my calendar to save moments for myself or to see friends. Sports help keep me centred and stay focused at work, which is no small feat since I’m always juggling with a dozen different projects. I loooove pilates — it makes me feel toned and full of energy. I also enjoy biking to work with Laurent when the weather allows it. He loves riding with me! 

I also find that it is super important to spend quality time with my friends and family to get my mind off work. I love taking my son out for coffee or dinner dates. Even though I spend most of my life scouring the city for the best restaurants and cafés, I love cooking for my friends and having guests over for brunch or dinner.  

In my spare time — if I have any! — I like to paint and read books.

Where do you find inspiration?

As Norman Vincent Peale once said: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

I find inspiration in many different things: art, sports, food… I love to learn about how other people succeed, no matter what field they’re in. I read books on entrepreneurship, essays about tech and inspiring leaders — while sipping a warm coffee, of course! Two books I’ve read recently come to mind: Inspired, by Martin Cagan, in which he tries to understand how to create tech that people will love; and The Four Steps to the Epiphany, a step-by-step guide for start-up entrepreneurs by Steve Blank.

I’m also very inspired by the chefs and restaurateurs I meet on a daily basis, many of whom have become close friends over the years. People don’t often realise how hard it is to manage a restaurant. It’s a lot like running a tech startup, in a way; the hours are long, the future always uncertain, and you constantly need to readjust to make sure you meet your customers’ — or users’ — needs. And you’re never safe from a bad review!

If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Honestly, I’d be happy to just press pause for a minute and have a Nespresso coffee break at home with my mom or my fiancé, Marc. But if I could have my pick from anyone in the whole wide world, I’d love to get a few of the greatest women in tech today around the table for a chat: Jane Manning from Google; Lea Hickman, formerly of Adobe; Martina Lauchengco, who worked at Microsoft and Netscape in their heyday, before founding her own VC firm; Kate Arnold, who was the first product manager at Netflix; and Camille Hearst, who started from the bottom at Apple and is now one of the most influential women at Spotify. That’d be a sight to behold!

Photography by Mikael Lebleu

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