Linda Fontana’s passion for food has taken her to where she is today, she is the epitome of a “foodie.” For nearly three years  she has owned and operated Fontana’s Restaurant in Fort Payne. Becoming a chef has been one of her proudest accomplishments.

 She wore several different work hats before she became a chef. She may never have gone to culinary school had it not been for what happened in 2003. While traveling home from work one evening a young woman  was distracted while driving and eating and veered over into Fontana’s lane, hitting her car head on. Fontana found her car spinning out of control and plummeting down a 30-foot embankment. Suffering from multiple bone fractures, she was under a doctor’s care until 2009.

 After being  medically released she found her physical condition caused some limitations. At age 50, she decided it was time to go to college and learn more about her passion. She acquired an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Art and graduated in 2013.

 Originally she worked as a chef at restaurants she did not own but quickly realized her ideas about food and corporate America’s ideas about food did not match up. “I view myself as an artist and a dinner plate as my canvas,” said Fontana. “I don’t like food that is filled with preservatives. I like the food to be as fresh as possible. I want it made from scratch like I had when I was a child. We lived on a farm and food did not come out of a can, it came out of a garden or a pasture.”

 Fontana continued, “Also, when you work for someone else you are limited as to what you are allowed to do in the kitchen. When customers come in who are gluten intolerant or have food allergies, I like to try to accommodate them. I also enjoy taking the time once the food has been served, to go around the dining room and see how everyone is enjoying their meal. I ask for honest opinions.”

 She wanted to open a restaurant with Italian and Greek food because it was not common in the area. The desserts served in her restaurant are also all made from scratch and if someone doesn’t like her grandmother’s carrot cake recipe, well then, they just don’t like carrot cake. Her dreamsicle pie is a dream come true.

 Fontana is from a large family with 12 children and continues to surround herself with family. Her sister, niece and daughter-in-law all work at the restaurant, and although her husband, Art, does not work at the restaurant she credits him for his loving support.

 From Souvlaki to Spanakopita and tomato pie to chicken parm, she will create a dish made-to-order to suit a customer which allows her the creativity she thrives on. Fontana’s is located at First Street and Gault.

 Linda’s Motto: “Always make it fresh.”

— Marla Ballard’s Who’s Who appears each Tuesday.

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