Tracella Romie sold cupcakes and cookies when she was a little girl.

Today, at 21 years old, Romie is starting up her community's first ever food and bake shop from her home: Choo-Choo's Kitchen & Bake Shop.

"I came a far ways to get to where I am today," said Romie, the young entrepreneur from Whati, N.W.T. 

"I've been through all the struggles, the pain, you name it."

choo choo's kitchen and bake shop

Romie's business logo. (Submitted by Tracella Romie)

Her love of cooking was influenced by her mother.

"My mom taught me how to do this and that, like traditionally, and in the modern world today."

But her inspiration for the business came from a 12-week wilderness safety training program that Romie was a part of last year.

"I was able to reconnect my spirit and my identity as a Tlicho citizen," said Romie, who decided she wanted to represent her people and "go for my dreams."

"I know Whati loves food, and I love food, and I love cooking." - Tracella Romie

"I'm so proud to be Tlicho," said Romie.

She began planning her business since November of last year. Romie says she's been busy researching, talking to investors and getting advice from business owners in the Tlicho region.

High demands and a new all-season road

It's a real demand in the community, which currently has no restaurant or food service, said Whati Chief Alfonz Nitsiza. 

"We have people come into the community on winter road season, and they're just coming for a visit… But they really don't have a facility to eat or anything," said Nitsiza.

The federal government announced earlier this year that it will pay 25 per cent of the cost of building an all-season road to Whati. With the new road coming to the community, Nitsiza says Romie's business venture is a great idea that's "on the right track." 

"What [young people] need is an inspiration. We gotta wake them up," Nitsiza said, praising Romie's business initiative.

"I know Whati loves food, and I love food, and I love cooking," Romie said.

On the menu

There are traditional dishes on the menu such as cooked boghoo (dried meat) with bannock, Whati-style fish fillet, and caribou stir-fry. But she also offers onion rings and spaghetti. Everything is home-cooked.

tracella romie

A home-cooked meal of steak and eggs on Romie's menu. (Submitted by Tracella Romie)

One of Romie's favourites is an item called the "Tlicho Big Breakfast."

It includes french toast and syrup, eggs, maybe some Klik or hotdogs, beans with bacons or sausage, and potato hash browns.

"That's my idea of Tlicho big breakfast," said Romie. "You have it all."

tracella romie

Tlicho Big Breakfast is Romie's favourite item on the menu. (Submitted by Tracella Romie)

The grand opening of Choo-choo's Kitchen & Bake Shop, scheduled for this month, has been postponed to April, due to sudden financial roadblocks.

"I'm using everything from my own pockets, I don't have the right equipment and supplies. So I think April will give me enough time to do that," said Romie.  

Come April, Romie said her customers can expect delicious meals, ready to go or they can eat in.

But in the meanwhile, Romie will be visiting different communities around the N.W.T. to promote her business. This weekend, she's planning on bringing her food truck to Behchoko for the 12th annual Ediwa Weyallon handgames tournament.  

With files from Lawrence Nayally