(Originally published HERE)
For Lower Lonsdale resident Thea VanHerwaarden a broken back became the catalyst for a cooking career that led her to appear on a number of major Canadian networks in the past year.
Growing up, VanHerwaarden had been exposed to many culinary cultures and tried lots of different meals.
This and her natural love for food were the first motivations for her, but what got her in the kitchen was a serious accident which left her with a broken back.
“I was stuck at home for a really long time, so I just started to cook. Most of the food at the very beginning wasn’t very good, but I tried to experiment and cook some of my favourite foods around the world,” VanHerwaarden said.
The atmosphere in her family was another reason for her interest in culinary arts. VanHerwaarden said that as a child she was often in the kitchen together with her mother.
“My mom was a really good cook. We were the type of family where we weren’t allowed white bread, any kind of treat would be like homemade cookies, it was never store-bought,” VanHerwaarden said.
One of her early childhood memories, she said, was her mother making crepes and teaching her how to roll the pan to make them thin.
Now, VanHerwaarden enjoys the process of making a meal more than eating it after.
“Which is saying a lot for me because I love to eat food,” VanHerwaarden said. “I’m not thinking much when I’m cooking, I think that’s why I like it so much, it’s just such a way to escape the days work and just being able to relax.”
She said she loves hosting dinner parties and sometimes has to cook in a rush.
Once she cooked a three-course meal for a six-person party over a couple of hours.
“After that I definitely have to sit down though,” VanHerwaarden said. “It can be very exhilarating. It always turns out better than I expect though, whenever I have to cook in a rush.”
VanHerwaarden said she cooks every day, going between comfort food and restaurant quality dishes.
She said she considered adding to her experience by taking culinary classes, but does not feel it is absolutely necessary for her.
“I do believe that it’s an art form and really it’s all about your creative mind and yes, there’s skills and techniques that you can learn in the school, but I’ve got a lot of them down pat already,” VanHerwaarden said.
For someone who usually does not cook very often VanHerwaarden said she would suggest keeping it simple and go store-bought for appetizers if possible.
She added that there is an easy-to-make recipe that she loves.
A smoked cheddar and ghost pepper bacon dip is VanHerwaarden’s go-to holiday recipe.
“This is my favourite and if you cook it, I swear you will make it a million times this Christmas,” VanHerwaarden said.
The holiday dip recipe can be found online at presidentschoice.ca/en_CA/recipes/recipeslisting/smoked-cheddar-and-ghost-pepper-bacon-dip.html.