The cool thing about Neal Harkins' fridge is that there's nary a potato or root veggie, nor a tin of molasses or trace of fast-food leftovers to be found.
This from the guy who's guilty of getting us hooked on his handmade, truffle-oiled Rootables Chips; who's helped hundreds of Whistler school kids build gingerbread houses; and who thinks nothing of serving thousands for dinner. (I thought he might need to warm up some fast food to feed himself and his family after expending all that time and energy.)
At Whistler Conference Centre, where he works as executive chef, Neal has a giant fridge — actually the biggest one at Whistler. Sit-down dinner for 1,000? No problem. Stand-up dinner for 2,000? Still no problem. His training as a banquet chef and his years working for hotel chains makes him master of the ultimate dinner party.
His biggest sit-down food service in one day was for 4,000-plus for Mothers' Day at the Banff Springs Hotel. His biggest overall food service over consecutive days: 260,000 people fed over nine days at the two-kilometre-long Dallas Convention Center during Super Bowl 45.
I can't imagine cooking dinner for more than 20. So what's Neal's secret for feeding thousands and keeping it together? "Just git 'er done," he says, mimicking comedian, Larry the Cable Guy, with a laugh.
But it's the home fridge Neal shares with his wife, Candice, whom you might know as one of Whistler's bylaw enforcement officers, and their kids, Kodie, 15, Hailey, 13, and Noah, 11, that we are really interested in.
It's a stainless steel, double-doored Samsung in the newly remodelled kitchen and eating area that's part of a giant great room. This is where the Harkins spend most of their time. It spans the whole back of the executive-style, 1980s split-level they rent, which backs onto a park-like forest in North Vancouver. All you see out the long expanse of kitchen windows are trees.
Neal is originally from Toronto and Candice, Nanaimo. The family moved to North Van after nine years in Whistler so the kids could be close to the sports and teams they're part of. And, yes, Neal and Candice commute to Whistler, an hour-and-20-minute drive,
Candice does cook — she's the weekend warrior, says Neal, known for her spaghetti and meat sauce, a yummy Asian-style soup and a good pot roast — but otherwise it's Neal who makes dinner. Hailey likes to bake with her dad, and Kodie can pull off a perfect crème brûlée he's been perfecting since the seventh grade when he had to make a French dish for French class, so the contents of the fridge are a family affair.
But first Neal wants to explain why their fridge is not that full.