Kiss and tell: Valentine's Day stories from long-time serversby Andrea Hill, Saskatoon StarPhoenix
From married couples to break-ups, slippery floors to sold-out bookings, restaurants chefs and servers share some stories from their experiences on Valentine's Day.
Valentine’s Day: It’s traditionally one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, bars and lounges in Saskatoon. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reached out to some of the people who have and are working on the front lines about what it’s like to be in the industry on Feb. 14 …
WEDDING BELLS … OR NOT
Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for Taylor Morrison and her team at Living Sky Cafe to show love to their customers while also celebrating a love of food. This year, the day will be extra special for one couple in particular.
“It wasn’t on Valentine’s Day, but we actually had two of our regulars get married in our dining room,” Morrison said. “Those two are actually coming back (on Valentine’s Day.) They are some of our biggest supporters and they are so excited — they specifically booked to sit where they got married and said their vows.”
But Valentine’s Day isn’t always love and romance. Morrison recalls how, while working as a server at different restaurant, she witnessed a Valentine’s Day date that turned into a Valentine’s breakup.
“It was bad. I feel like it kind of haunts me,” Morrison said with a laugh.
‘ALL HANDS ON DECK’
Calories owner and chef Taszia Thakur, who has worked in kitchens for 12 years, loves working Valentine’s Day. Calories celebrates the day by serving a seven-course dinner and Thakur says bookings always sell out, no matter what day of the week Valentine’s Day falls on.
On a typical day, Calories has on staff two or three chefs plus a dishwasher. On Valentine’s Day, the restaurant will have six chefs and two dishwashers working.
“For us, especially at Calories, it’s probably our busiest day of the year or our biggest night of the year so this is when the team really becomes a real French kitchen brigade,” she said.
“Everyone works a station … The whole team is here and it’s all hands on deck.”
She says Valentine’s Day in the kitchen is “high energy,” but patrons — many of them regulars — enjoying the evening tend to take their time and savour the multi-course meal.
‘A SLIPPERY DISASTER’
Regular StarPhoenix contributor and food columnist Jenn Sharp has spent years working as a server in restaurants. She remembers the pomp and ceremony that went into Valentine’s Day at one hotel restaurant: a special menu, reservations galore and cases of champagne chilled and ready.
“One year, we decorated the tables with rose petals, which looked pretty but inevitably fell off and got stuck to our shoes,” she said.
“The kitchen floors were a slippery disaster that night because it was so busy no one had time to clean little spills. Combine that with rose petals stuck to the bottom of your shoes and it was like a greasy skating rink in there.”
A SHUCKING GOOD TIME
For Christie Peters, chef and owner of The Hollows, Valentine’s Day is not only popular for patrons, it’s also a hit for staff who get to sample the special champagnes on offer and take home the bubbly leftovers.
Valentine’s Day gives Peters an opportunity to get creative with the dishes by utilizing unique items like passionfruit, wild rose and edible flowers that add an interesting spin to the restaurant’s “love themed” tasting menu or the special main course meant for two to share. A few of the exciting options this year are a beet salad shaped to look like a rose and “The Black Heart” — a beef tartar with squid ink and caviar in the shape of a heart.
“Everything on the plate is black — it was just a really fun to develop that dish,” Peters said.
But it’s the table-side oyster shucking that really makes things special.
“Word has spread that we have the oysters and people come specifically for them … when we have the oyster man it’s extra special. He’s a character, for sure.”