Skip to content

Distracted dining: Distracted by the chef in the house

In this column, Nancy talks about having her dad-the-chef come to visit
Chef Cal in the kitchen. Nancy Revie for GuelphToday

He’s here. Dad the chef has arrived with his sous chef who we affectionately call the WSM (wicked stepmother). The kitchen will be buzzing for the next few days and I won’t be anywhere near it, except to indulge of course. Life is good - very good.

Dad and the WSM made the trek all the way from Yarmouth, N.S. and have stopped for a visit before heading out to Vancouver for a wedding. I know when they arrive I take a sabbatical from kitchen duties.

First things first. Chef Cal inspects the kitchen and gets familiar with the lay of the land. He’s looking for anything and everything from pots and pans to pantry items to what’s in the fridge. After a quick once-over, the list making begins. If he isn’t writing something down, he’s thinking it in his head. Before you can say ‘pass the salt’, he’s got a week’s worth of menu planning done and we’re off. A week with the chef in the house consists of at least a daily run to the grocery store.

After scrutinizing everything in the pantry, dad knows exactly what’s missing. I used to try and anticipate what he might need, but I’ve given up on that activity. My cupboard and fridge are usually close to bare by the time he arrives. I know he’ll fill them up quick with what he needs for the next few days of Cal’s kitchen creations.

As I write this, I hear the rolling pin slapping against the counter in the kitchen and the stove buzzing. The chef is making pastry and the sous chef is peeling and cutting up apples. Later today there will be a variety of pies cooling on the counter. Mmmmmm pie - my favourite!

Dad’s chef training is army/navy. He does things fast. I move pretty quick, but compared to him, I’m slothlike in the kitchen. He’s usually finished prepping dinner before I’m done my second morning coffee, contemplating the day. Multi-tasking doesn’t begin to describe his activity level.

It’s fascinating to watch him function in the kitchen. He can easily be working on myriad of delectables at once. Sometimes I get in there to help which usually means he tries to work around me and find something simple I can do. I do one thing and dad does everything else in the same timeframe. All in all, it works great for me!

We do have our differences. If I had a dollar for every time he’s looked for white pepper in my kitchen, I’d be rich. I buy lard - he wants shortening. He’s left-handed which means most of the things he does are backwards to me. We laugh, sing, dance and create as he works patiently to teach this forever rookie.

Over the years, dad has taught me so many of what he calls his ‘tips and tricks’. There is a never-ending list of shortcuts; substitutions; additions to everyday dishes that just make them so much more enjoyable. I love learning from him. I’m no chef, but cooking and baking are some of the things I really enjoy doing. It must be in the genes.

Chef Cal has done everything from mess-hall cooking; running his own catering business; banquets, buffets, charity events, fund raisers – you name it, he’s been there. One of the best memories I have is of dad and the WSM preparing and presenting a memorable rehearsal dinner for our son and daughter-in-law. Our backyard was transformed into a beautiful setting with a buffet banquet worthy of the bride, groom, family and friends. It was magical and I was one proud daughter. Food memories are the best.

Sidebar... I’ve taken long enough writing this, I can now smell those pies in the oven... four in the oven and one for the freezer!

My advice to anyone who is blessed enough to have a chef visit – get out of their way! Let yourself be immersed in their talent and be totally distracted by the tantalizing creations that come out of your kitchen. When the chef leaves, the kitchen will be much quieter, offering simpler food while waiting for his return.

Nancy Revie is a Guelph author, motivational speaker, fitness instructor and entertainer. Visit Nancy at Her column appears every other week.