Top-selling Canadian cookbook author Jean Paré dies in Edmonton at age 95

Jean Paré, a farm girl from a small village in rural Alberta, and who gained worldwide fame for her Company’s Coming cookbook series, has died.

Paré died in Edmonton on Christmas Eve aged 95.

Raised in Irma, Alta., located about 180 kilometers east of Edmonton, Paré and her family built a three-generation publishing company where she authored more than 200 Company’s Coming cookbooks.

By the time she retired in 2011, an estimated 30 million copies had been sold.

In 2004, Paré was made a member of the Order of Canada.

“My grandmother loved to cook and it didn’t have to be fancy food, it was just good food. And she was always really good at catering to her specific guests,” Amanda Lovig Hagg told CBC News Monday.

“Obviously cooking and recipes is what she is famous for, but that certainly wasn’t all her life was about. In fact, she did not start Company’s Coming until she was in her 50s.”

Born in 1927, Paré launched a career in food after her first divorce forced her to start over, her grandmother said.

She opened a cafe in Vermilion, Alta., where she met her second husband, before branching out into a catering business that she ran for 18 years.

“She catered massive events and always made nothing fussy but everything delicious,” said Lovig Hagg, who worked at the family business for many years.

“Everybody would line up after events asking for her recipes and she would spend hours writing the recipes out on paper to anybody who asked for the square recipe or the salad dressing recipe.

“And that’s when my dad said, ‘you know mom, I’m going to quit my job. You quit this catering thing and let’s write a cookbook.'”

Paré had a successful catering career for nearly 20 years before launching Company’s Coming Publishing in 1980 with her son, Grant Lovig.

‘Queen of Vermilion’

Family friend Steve Coates said Paré was a “motherly figure, calm and not overbearing in any way, a very typical Alberta farm girl, and yet in a room she was a force.”

“I mean, Jean’s success came from her incredible drive and determination and you feel it in the room,” Coates said.

Coates first met Paré when he and his family moved in across the street from Lovig in Sherwood Park in 1985. Paré instantly treated them like family, he said.

He recalled attending fall fairs with Paré.

“It was like following around the queen of Vermilion,” Coates said.

“Especially in northern Alberta she was a celebrity and people at these fairs, who hadn’t seen her for a long time, but remembered her as a farm girl from Irma, would come up to her as though they were approaching the Queen.

“It was something to see, very respectful and reverent. And of course she just treated them like she had just seen them at church that morning.”

Lovig Hagg said her grandmother cultivated her love for cooking from a young age after she and her sister divided the household chores.

Lovig Hagg said Paré loved to travel with her family, supported many foster children around the world, and never stopped being amazed at the impact she had on others.

“Every time she received a fan letter, or had someone stop her in public that recognized her, she was surprised every time,” she said.

“[She was] always just really pleased to meet them and wrote back to every letter she ever received.”

I stopped first book, 150 Delicious Squareswas released in 1981, followed by other popular titles such as 30-Minute Weekday Meals and 5-Ingredient Slow Cooker Recipes.

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