When CBC Information Morning Saint John executive producer, Steven Webb hired me to create and prepare “a special Italian dinner” as a prize for a contest he’d cooked up to celebrate the end of our horrible winter, I was delighted. In typical type A personality style, I composed a 9-course Italian feast.
Unfortunately, I’m not a true type A. In my enthusiasm, I neglected to consider where I might be cooking. YIKES! I only caught this potential issue after the contest had launched.
In my twenties, I catered part-time in New York City. Friends and acquaintances hired me to cook for anywhere between four and a hundred people in all sorts of kitchens. One event had me using a little hibachi barbecue out-side the kitchen window on the fire escape to grill chicken skewers for fifty! After the first couple of jobs, it became my practice to do a site inspection so I could trouble shoot any kitchen pitfall with respect to my menu. It’s hard to serve roast chicken when the client doesn’t own an oven that works…
The Information Morning Saint John contest ‘Fiesta di Primavera’ turned out to be one of the most successful contests that they’d ever run – successful in terms of community participation. Their listeners shared stunning stories of food experiences from nostalgia to wild travel. It was wonderful to hear such passionate tales of remarkable food moments in people’s lives. A friend of mine remarked that the contest had given our community a new way to know one another. Everywhere I went, people were chatting about the contest and how they hoped to win. Finally, the winner’s name was drawn. Ellen Steeves would be hosting five guests, in her home with me in the kitchen.
I have Ellen’s permission to share this… Several weeks before the selected date, I’d asked Ellen to send me a few shots of her kitchen so I had the lay of the land. Fast forward to three days before the dinner. As I was putting my prep list together, I realized I better check to see how Ellen was planning on setting her table. Knowing in advance would ensure my service flowed smoothly – nine courses requires a lot of plate changes!
“How are you fixed for dinnerware?” I ask.
“I have four dinner plates.” she replied.
No matter how I tried to do the math, I couldn’t turn four plates into the fifty-four plates required to present nine course to six people. Eighteen plates would work with me washing dishes while I cooked, but the math still didn’t work. Luckily for me, Liz Rowe has enough dishes to serve the entire city. She very kindly agreed to loan me whatever I needed.
Information Morning Saint John’s ‘FESTA DI PRIMAVERA’/FEAST OF SPRINGTIME
BRUSCHETTA DI VERDURE PRIMAVERA E RICOTTA
GAMBERI E CANNELLINI
INSALATA DI ASPARAGI E PARMIGIANO
GNUDI di MASCARPONE
CAPPESANTE CON CARCIOFI
RISOTTO CACIO E PEPE
FILETTO DI MAIALE CON RABARBARO MOSTARDA
With nine courses prepped, I loaded my car with food, wine, equipment and plates arriving two hours before service to finish cooking.
At 5:30, Information Morning’s host Hance Colburne showed up to interview Ellen and her guests – click here to listen. As you can hear, the evening was filled with food, friends and laughter; the perfect recipe to create a beautiful food memory.
Thank you so much CBC for hiring me, thank you Ellen for being such a gracious hostess. and thank you to Ellen’s guests for being such a lovely group to celebrate ‘fiesta di primavera. The evening was spectacular!
Thanks for reading.
some of the photos are compliments of Hance Colburne