They say too many cooks spoil the broth, but celebrity chef Anna Olson begs to differ: “I think when it’s a couple cooking, it’s the opposite,” she says. “You need both partners to add a little bit of magic to the pot.” Olson, who hosts Fresh with Anna Olson on Food Network Canada, adopts this philosophy in both her personal and professional life with husband, Niagara College professor and chef Michael Olson.
In fact, the couple first met at Inn on the Twenty, a winery restaurant in Jordan, Ont., where Olson worked as a pastry chef alongside then-executive chef Michael. Their working relationship evolved into what Olson describes as “a bit of an on-the-job romance,” a work-home balance the couple continues today as co-owners of Olson Foods at Ravine, a store and bakery located in the Ravine Estates Winery in St. Davids, Ont. But spending that much time with one’s partner must brew some occasional trouble, right? “No,” Olson plainly states. “It’s never been an issue where I thought it would be easier if we weren’t working together. In fact, I count on Michael very much to keep me in check and vice versa.”
Indeed, the Olsons make quite the tag team in the kitchen, with each bringing different strengths to the table. Olson lauds her husband as “an incredible saucier,” but insists that despite his ability to make a few killer desserts, she’s still the baker in the house.
As food fanatics, the duo share a passion for gastronomy that knows no boundaries. “Food is our hobby as well as our professional life,” says Olson. In addition to conjuring up recipes for seasonal and local eats to feature on her show, Olson and hubby find time during their morning coffee runs to grapple with the age-old question: “What’s for dinner?” Other than dreaming up new dishes, what does the couple do when they have free time? Olson laughs. “It doesn’t happen a lot,” she admits but cites travel abroad and hanging out with their pet beagle as favourite pastimes.
Even with her jam-packed schedule, Olson still manages to make time for various charitable endeavours, including Eat to the Beat, Willow Breast Cancer Support Canada’s annual fundraising gala, with which Olson has been involved for more than a decade. “Breast cancer always has been a cause close to my heart,” she says. The delectable affair showcases gourmet creations by the city’s top female chefs, including Olson, who last year dished up her frozen lemon mousse with gingered berries.
Giving back to the community is what Eat to the Beat is all about, says Olson: “I see women chefs at this event supporting each other; it’s a very positive and cooperative environment, not a competitive one. And that’s what Willow stands for: Women offering support to other women to get them through the tough times."
Between Eat to the Beat, her television series and a new cookbook, Fresh with Anna Olson (Whitecap Books Ltd., 2009), things are busy as usual for Olson. But juggling a hectic schedule is a little bit easier with her hubby by her side. It’s no wonder: After particularly long workdays, Olson says, “Michael is always nice enough to have dinner ready when I get home.” Leave it to a pastry chef to marry a real sweetheart.
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