Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Caboose Catering - At Home and Away

The kitchen on a merchant ship was called a caboose and it wasn’t very grand. It was a simple, portable shelter protecting the stove on the open deck of a ship. In Canada, the galley on a timber raft was also called a caboose. And, of course, a caboose is also a railway car.

Whichever definition you choose, a caboose spells out travel and outdoor adventure, with a close link to cooking and food. It’s the perfect name for Beth Rogers' and Thayne Robstad’s catering company, Caboose Catering.

A Thirst for Travel 
Beth Rogers and Thayne Robstad grew up in Saskatoon and met when they were working in two Broadway restaurants. They both wanted to enhance their culinary skills, and the best way to do that was through travelling and working in restaurants across Canada. “Your learning curve skyrockets at a new restaurant,” Thayne explains.

Their first stop was in Vancouver where Thayne worked in La Quercia, an Italian restaurant. “The chef had a huge influence on me,” Thayne explains. “He had such a zest for life and food and family.” Beth worked at Chambar and favours a more French style of cooking.

Once they had saved enough money, the couple purchased a camper van and spent four months travelling down the west coast of the United States. “We went to all the places along the west coast that we’d always wanted to go,” Beth says. They were particularly impressed by the wild bounty of Northern California, triggering an ongoing passion for foraging and mushrooms.

After heading back north, they moved to Toronto for 18 months. It was another big city with big city restaurant options and a stepping point for Montreal, New York, and Newfoundland. Thayne started working at Enoteca Sociale, an Italian wine bar, while Beth learned the fine art of making coffee and working front of house at Dineen Coffee Co.

The couple also undertook a car camping trip of the Atlantic Provinces and the Northeast States. “Some of the best beer in the world is being brewed in the Northeast,” Thayne says, “especially Vermont.”

Spring 2015 was spent in the North West Territories, picking and selling morel mushrooms. “We love nature and being outdoors and finding the things you can eat around you,” Beth says. “People are terrified of mushrooms and things that come from the ground. It’s such a shame that we’ve lost that connection with nature.”

Homecoming and Catering 
Eventually it was time to return home to Saskatoon. “Saskatoon is home,” Beth says. “We love the city and the province, believe in it, and always intended to be back here.” Thayne agrees, pointing out that Saskatoon is at a turning point. “It’s an exciting time to be here,” he says. “There are tons of restaurants opening or waiting to open when they find the right location.”

Beth and Thayne worked together for the first time a few years ago at Souleio and continue to enjoy this approach. “We split up the workload really nicely,” Beth says. “We’re both fans of playing to our strengths,” Thayne adds. “Beth is extremely good at planning and organizing. That’s critical when running a crew and a kitchen.” Thayne, according to Beth, is amazing under pressure, another essential kitchen skill.

Although the couple would like to eventually open a restaurant, their first step was to set up a catering company – Caboose Catering. “People are more educated about food and interested in trying new things,” Thayne says. “We’re not sure catering has kept up with that. We believe we can offer a different experience with newer food and finesse in display.”

Caboose Catering doesn’t have a set menu. Instead, they go back and forth with the customer, working out what they like/don’t like, get an idea of their budget, and whether the event will be upscale or laid back.

“Caterers become a part of really important moments in people’s lives,” Beth explains. “You can help make it perfect.”

Beth and Thayne emphasize the importance of presentation and display. Beth loves using old platters handed down by their grandparents. “It’s magical serving food on something that’s been used for generations and has a story behind it,” she explains.

They also use a lot of wood and make their own things, which is a good fit with the local, seasonal food that they prefer to serve.

Caboose Catering
Caboose Catering supplied the food for an event I attended in September. The food was beautifully displayed and delicious. And I was delighted to find that all but one of the appetizers was vegetarian.

Do take a look at Caboose Catering’s website. You can also like them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram.

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