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A day in the life of local tastemaker and cookbook author, Diala Canelo

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A peek into how shopping small makes a big difference in her beloved Leslieville neighbourhood

A day in the life of local tastemaker and cookbook author, Diala Canelo

At the core of every thriving neighbourhood are its small businesses—the retailers that are a community’s lifeblood and bring all the character and charm that a neighbourhood has the offer. And every time you pick up a loaf of bread from your favourite local bakery, purchase a handmade ring from a local designer or shop at an independent bookstore, you’re helping make a difference in your community. 

Supporting small businesses following a challenging year can now be even more rewarding for American Express Cardmembers across Canada with the return of the Shop Small campaign. From now until August 23, 2021, eligible AMEX Cardmembers spending at least $10 at participating small businesses can earn a $5 credit up to 10 times. This means you’ll get rewarded for supporting not just one single small business, but for supporting many, again and again. As the country comes out of lockdown, the Shop Small offer is encouraging Canadians to make shopping small a part of their daily habits to support the businesses that make our neighbourhoods so special.  

For Diala Canelo, the food and travel blogger behind Diala’s Kitchen and the author of Diala’s Kitchen: Plant-Forward and Pescatarian Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel (which was shortlisted for the 2021 Taste Canada Awards’ General Cookbook category), it means supporting nearby communities. Known for creating vibrant, mouth-watering recipes and photographing those creations for her Instagram account, the tastemaker is happy to shop small because it’s what local businesses need right now.

“One thing I love about Toronto is that it’s a city with so many different neighbourhoods,” says the Dominican Republic-born mother of two who lives in Toronto’s east end. “I love Leslieville because while it feels like you’re in the city, it also feels a little bit detached and has a real local charm. You don’t experience the busyness of Queen West; it’s slower-paced. I love that most businesses are local and that you can really get everything you need without leaving the area.” 

Chi Junky

As an active person, Diala starts her day with a home-brewed cup of coffee before heading out to Jimmie Simpson Park for a morning yoga session in the park with Chi Junky Studio (70 McGee St.). “I’ve been to many yoga studios, but what I like about Chi Junky is that you can get many things under one roof, from iridology to private yoga with a group of friends. I go there for the slow vinyasa. I love their classes, so I try to do two a week.” 

Famished after revitalizing her mind, body and spirit, the tastemaker heads to Pasaj (1100 Queen St. E.), a new Istanbul-influenced bakery and brunch restaurant. 

AMEX Canada Shop Small Campaign with Diala Canelo featuring Pasaj

“I love that you can find food from around the world in Toronto,” gushes the world traveller. Despite having travelled extensively pre-pandemic, the flight attendant confesses that she hasn’t yet visited Istanbul.

In addition to a line of teatime cookies, classic pastries like tartlettes and profiteroles, the pandemic-born Turkish bakery also carries pantry goods that complete the traditional Turkish breakfast table. “They sell Simit and Chai, my favourite bagels in the city and make a bunch of different sandwiches with them. Those are my go-to when I’m really hungry. They also have things that you can bring home, like a shakshuka sauce that I’m obsessed with. And I always leave with either hummus or a chia pudding.” 

However, there’s one more insider tip from Diala, who earned a Grand Diploma in pastry and bread-making from Le Cordon Bleu in Mexico City. “When I was in pastry school, I worked with trays and trays of éclairs and theirs is the best I’ve ever tried. I highly recommend them,” she raves about Pasaj’s éclairs.

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Good Neighbour

Fueled and energized, Diala heads to Good Neighbour (935 Queen St. E.), a one-stop-shop that reminds Diala of the charming boutiques in Europe. “Good Neighbour is one of my favourite shops because it’s unique, eclectic and has many things under one roof. It’s kind of a concept store. They have housewares, clothes for kids, casual apparel for women like Agolde jeans, sweats or Nike Daybreak sneakers and jewelry. Whether you need a birthday card or a cookbook (they have a huge selection of cookbooks) or if you’re buying things for three different people, you’re going to find stuff in there. I love it. I can spend hours in that shop.”

After a full day, Diala heads home to plan dinner, which she lovingly prepares for her family every night. “Except on Fridays,” muses the avid home cook. “That’s when we order take out.”

Click here to learn more about the Shop Small offer and for eligible Cardmembers to enroll. American Express Cardmembers can find participating businesses to support on AMEX Maps or select participating online merchants on the online directory.

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