She Pursued Her Dream with Passion & Appreciation, Meet Orlando’s Premiere Wine & Cheese Enthusiast, Tonda Corrente
Q: When did you discover you were a wine and cheese enthusiast?
TC: My passion for wine started over 20 years ago while working in various restaurants around town. I was always intrigued by wine pairings, paying close attention to the chef’s skills and menus, I really trained my palate through pairing the different dinner courses of my guests. When I took a job at a local wine shop offering a unique cheese program, my life really changed. I mean it is the oldest love story still being celebrated today. After discovering cheese, life took a turn.
My appreciation and education for wine, and its growing regions, as well as my obsession of finding perfect pairings all came to a pivotal new understanding. And suddenly, I needed to know what wines and what cheeses best go together. I mean surely, they don’t ALL go together, and thus started my new journey.
Q: Can you share a little history with us how La Femme du Fromage evolved?
TC: Fast forward a few years. I had been continuing my cheese passion while working in a few different wine shops, where I had begun teaching wine and cheese classes. I started journaling all my pairings, and I was being featured on local news channels, as well as at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. My classes were a hit and people were encouraging me to open a brick and mortar. About that time, news of a little market concept was circling around town. John Rife was a man with a vision, and he wanted specific concepts for vendors in his new market. He had heard about my classes and gave me a nudge to open a store front. East End Market was conceived and that was the moment that La Femme Du Fromage was finally born.
Q: What are some of your customers favorites dishes they come back for?
TC: Naturally our customers come in for our cheese and charcuterie boards. We always have orders for large platters to go, but regular guests absolutely love our Le Grande Fromage Grilled Cheese Sandwich … and on Friday nights, our Grilled Cheese Happy Hour is a pretty awesome experience. We feature a flight of different grilled cheese sandwiches and if you wish for something extra fun, we can also pair the flight with specialty craft beers.
Q: Do you have future plans you can share with us?
TC: Our “little cheese shop that could” is finally expanding next year, and we will be opening a second location in the North Quarter district of downtown Orlando. We plan on a much more expansive menu, with old world style tapas, swanky desserts and wine and cheese flights with chocolate pairings as well. We look forward to growing beyond what our tiny stall at East End is able to handle.
Q: Looking back, is there anything you would have done different in your career?
TC: Honestly, I can’t say that I would do anything different. It’s all been a learning experience, and I have grown organically, both personally and in business. It needed to happen the way that it did for me to be where I am now. I am grateful for all the lessons, and experiences that have brought me to this moment.
Q: Tell us about some of the topics you’re asked to lecture about?
TC: I love teaching about pairings still, and our Wine, Cheese and Chocolate classes are hands down the best classes I have ever been a part of. However, some other seminars I teach are various levels of basic and intermediate cheese education.
Q: You have become a model businesswoman … can you share with our audience the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
TC: Aww that is really sweet of you to say. I would say that one of the biggest hurdles is to continue to believe that you are indeed doing something that people want, and no matter how hard it is, or how much work it is, endurance is key. I wanted to throw in the towel a few times before, and someone gave me some great advice. They said, “if it was easy, then everyone would do it” and that was the encouragement I needed to keep going.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
TC: Running a business is hard, and it’s much harder when you don’t even have a partner to help you make decisions or share in the financial commitment that it requires to continue. I have learned to only buy what I can afford to buy, and only spend the money that I have on hand, forcing me to grow slow, but also not taking on more than I could handle. I can say that I own my business 100% on my own. I pay my bills; I pay my employees. I don’t have much, but what I do have, I own outright, and that is a good feeling.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
TC: Oprah- She is self-made and graceful. She is loving, giving, and so incredibly powerful in her respectful kindness.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel women face today?
TC: Fear. I think that a lot of women either don’t know how or are afraid that they can’t do for themselves. Maybe they don’t know how to take their life into their own hands, maybe its money related, maybe it’s about their kids, or maybe they are just afraid of failure and so they stay in unhealthy relationships, or in dead end jobs because they don’t know how else to be. I think more women should take the leap of faith in themselves. I always say, No risk- No reward.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
TC: Follow your dreams and go for it. Find what makes you happy and make it your life’s work. You can do it if I can. Strive for greatness every day. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Take the power in your own hands. Don’t be dependent on anyone to bring you your happiness except for you. Make it happen for yourself. And then you can live free and happy in your own power.
Five Things About Tonda Corrente
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
Jim Morrison- he has always been my rebel spirit
2. What were you like as a student?
Free- spirited, but slightly insecure. Outgoing and friendly to everyone.
3. If they made a movie of your life, who’d play you?
4. What app can’t you live without?
5. How do you release stress?
I go dancing!