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