The Rehearsal Dinner- A Culinary Masterpiece

Lemon ginger chicken, Greek potatoes, brown butter carrots, candied red and yellow beets, mango and jalapeño salmon, an arugula, goat cheese, yellow zucchini, tomato and cucumber salad and …….saskatoon berry shortcake with minty whipped cream for dessert.  Sound like an amazing meal? It was! That was the menu for the rehearsal dinner the night before our younger son’s wedding on July 14th. It was cooked by my niece Olivia pictured below with the bride and groom in front of the sumptuous spread she created.

Bucky and Alisa, the bride and groom chat with the chef  just before the meal is served

Groomsman Matt Schellenberg poses with a perfectly presented dessert plate

Olivia is a chef at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta. She went there for an internship after her first year of cooking school and they were so impressed they offered her a job; promising her time off to work on her degree. Last year she achieved her culinary Red Seal certification, which requires thousands of hours in the kitchen and a comprehensive examination. Now she has her sights set on a job at a landmark hotel in Europe.

Olivia busy at work in our kitchen

When she heard about her cousin’s wedding in Winnipeg she offered to fly out from Banff and cook the rehearsal dinner for the bride and groom. It was an offer my husband Dave and I couldn’t refuse.  We picked Olivia up from the airport with her tool kit in tow. She had brought her own knives and utensils with her.  I gulped a little at the price tag on some of her equipment, but she told us good cooking tools cared for and maintained properly are vital to culinary success.

Olivia gets ready to skin the salmon. You can see the knife from her personal cooking tool kit on the counter in front of her.

Olivia was all business. She had two possible menus planned but said she’d make her final decision about what she’d serve at the rehearsal dinner after we had gone shopping.  Olivia’s parents live in southern Ontario. She hadn’t seen them since October. They were also in Winnipeg for the wedding; so we convinced Olivia to take a little holiday with them before she started her rehearsal dinner preparations.

Olivia greets her Mom on her arrival in Winnipeg

Olivia and her Uncle Dave on the river path at the Forks in Winnipeg. Dave has a bike and Olivia is on foot, but since she’s a triathlete competitor she could keep up with her uncle.

We took Olivia and her parents on the Splash Dash guided river tour of Winnipeg

Olivia went to watch her cousin Bucky , the groom, play baseball and then they joined the family on the roof top of Pasquale’s Restaurant for pizza

Olivia and Linda enjoying angel food cake for Linda’s birthday at our condo after Dave cooked them a supper of Pad Thai and summer rolls.

Olivia has brunch with her aunts and uncles on the patio of the Free Press News Cafe

On Wednesday we were off to the St. Norbert Farmer’s Market. Olivia was in her glory here, sniffing fresh herbs, selecting the perfect potatoes, weighing vegetables in her hands, sweeping up armloads of greens, and chatting with the vendors about their produce.

Look at this leafy green arugula lettuce!

Isn’t this the perfect beet Uncle Dave?

Olivia has her arms full of yellow zucchini for the salad.

Will we have enough potatoes?

Olivia settles on a price with the market gardener while her Dad and uncle look on.

It was a good thing her parents, Linda and John who own a restaurant in Cottam Ontario were along with us to help carry everything.

Olivia and her Dad, John carry out the produce from the Farmers’ Market

Stops for meat and other necessities followed and then it was back to our place to put everything away.  The next morning Olivia, who was staying at a Winnipeg sister hotel to the one she works at in Banff, was at our door, tool kit in hand ready to work. And work she did –all day long.  Her parents were her sous chefs and although they are professional restaurateurs themselves, they made it clear their daughter was in charge and they did whatever she ordered.

Olivia gave her Dad the job of peeling all the carrots.

Olivia had to speak sternly with her Dad when he started making carrot people instead of concentrating on his job.

Olivia’s Mom Linda was assigned to washing the lettuce for the salad.

It was quite something to watch Olivia fly around our kitchen, multi-tasking at a dizzying speed.  She provided precise instructions, doubled and tripled recipes in her head, sliced, diced, chopped, skinned, measured and sautéed.

Olivia sautees the salmon

At about 5 o’clock Olivia was satisfied everything that could be done ahead of time was complete and agreed to take time off to go to a Winnipeg Goldeyes game with her uncle Dave.

The night of the rehearsal dinner Olivia’s mother decorated our dining room table with flowers and candles and beautifully arranged collections of plates, napkins, cutlery and serving dishes. 

The buffet table featured photos of the bride and groom playing the guitar and violin. They were a gift from the couple’s cousin Hannah.

Olivia put the finishing touches on the food and presented it in lovely ways. The chicken was decked with dill, the dessert adorned with mint, the salad tossed so all its colorful ingredients were in evidence, and the carrots arrayed with their carefully retained green tips providing a colorful contrast.

Groomsman Eric Sung behind the buffet table

Olivia readily accepted help from relatives and friends as she hurried to put the food on the table.  

Sarah Jane, sister-in-law of the bridal couple, tosses the salad for Olivia.

Wedding musician Brendan and his girlfriend Sitar help put whipped cream on the dessert

Olivia’s Mom Linda and her Aunt Shirley lend a hand to get the chicken ready to serve

Olivia’s cousin Karen gets cheese ready for the appetizer tray while Olivia’s Dad and Uncle Paul slice potatoes

Olivia looks worried. Will everything taste good?

The food was amazing! You could just see the guests savoring every bite of the delicious dinner. Olivia’s Dad was the self-appointed sommelier and made sure everyone had a glass of wine or another beverage of choice in hand. Everyone had a very good time at the rehearsal dinner!

The guests helping themselves to the delicious spread on the buffet table

Guests enjoying the food around the livingroom coffee table

The bride’s mother, Verna tries the Saskatoon shortcake dessert

Bridesmaid Johanna Hildebrand talking to her brother-in-law and groomsman Matt Schellenberg

The bride and groom’s sister-in-law Karen, chats with groomsman Eric Sung and his girlfriend Michelle

The groom visits with his Uncle Paul who flew out from Leamington Ontario for the wedding

The bride’s parents Bob and Verna relaxing after a long busy day of wedding preparations

My niece Olivia loves cooking. She also loves her family. We were the lucky recipients of the fruits of both of those passions when she prepared such a memorable dinner for our son and new daughter-in-law’s wedding rehearsal party.

Bucky, the groom is signaling that his cousin is #1 in his books for cooking all this gourmet food.

Olivia accepts congratulations from bestman and cousin, Joel on cooking such a terrific meal.

Olivia’s Dad is very proud of his talented daughter.

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