January 26, 2012 -
Heather Haviland + Andy Strizak: A wedding story
When well-known chefs Heather Haviland (owner of Lucky’s Café) and Andy Strizak (Director of Operations at Spice of Life) wed on a Monday (that’s a Saturday in chef-time) in the fall of 2010, it was a sensational pairing. Add Spice of Life Catering Co. to the mix and you have yourself one very delicious occasion. With the enlisted help of Chef Ben Bebenroth and his crew (Andy was not yet with Spice at the time), the party went off without a hitch. Below, we talk to Chef Heather Haviland about her big day and her experience working with Ben and Jess.
Q. Why did you choose Spice of Life Catering Co. to cater your wedding?
A. We really didn’t contemplate anybody else. It was mostly a matter of trying to sell Ben on the concept of executing an event that was conceptualized by Andy and I first. I’m a control freak. I know that. I accept that. But when you get married, it’s like you grow a second head. I knew at one point it was getting out of control, so being able to put our trust in Ben and Jess was such a relief. To a certain degree we wanted to participate, but I also didn’t want to be wiping butter cream off my elbow a minute before walking down the aisle. We had this great history with Ben and knew we could put our trust in Spice when it counted most.
Q. As a chef yourself, did you have a pretty clear vision of what the menu should look like? How did you and your husband’s culinary philosophies influence the food offerings?
A. There were certain aspects that Andy and I did ahead of time – like freezing the peaches for the Bellini’s when they were in season. We had this amazing old-fashioned cocktail hour. The guys made the bitters from scratch! And then there were other portions where Spice understood exactly what we wanted and then took it into their own hands to execute. It was this great collaboration, but I by no means want that to sound like Andy and I played a bigger role than we did. In fact, three days before the wedding, we totally just stepped back and let Spice do their thing.
Q. Other than the menu, what other factors were involved in the planning? In what ways did Spice help?
A. I had a bazillion ideas of what I wanted on that day. There was so much going on it was like a 5-ring circus! We just keep adding elements. And Jess was so great. She would just give me a little smile that said, “Ok you got it!” She just made it happen.
When you do catering for a living, it helps make it formulaic, but that can get kind of boring. People who go into the business are attracted to the chaos that is created when every single event is unique. That being said, there was nothing about our wedding that had been replicated.
Spice spent the time with Andy and I to understand which details were super important to focus on, to the point that I knew on that day that I didn’t need to worry about it. And there were so many details that that was no small feat.
Q. Tell us about your cake!
A. I’ve done wedding cakes for 3 decades now and I didn’t want my cake to be like anything else I had ever done. Because we only use butter in our butter cream, there is a challenge of making sure it’s cold while it’s being displayed, which has to happen last minute and then it has to be room temperature right before you serve it, otherwise the flavor won’t come though. We had to have onsite refrigeration so that it was just right. So we added that little stress bonus to Spice’s world that day.
But in addition to our actual cake, which was a four-layered tier cake, made of malted chocolate, white chocolate malt butter cream, and was covered in chocolate truffle ganache, we also did 15 different flavor 10-inch cakes that were set out on the tables to encourage our guests to mingle. They were gone in minutes, which was great, because the last thing you want to do after your wedding is throw out all of the leftover cake!
Q. What was your most memorable moment?
A. I can honestly say that one of my prouder moments of the event was being at the buffet and seeing just how absolutely blown away everyone was. Like kids in a candy store! They were grateful. They were happy to be there. They couldn’t believe it! I was proud of my husband. I was proud of Ben and Jess. And I was proud about the Cleveland food scene. We had food writers, someone from the food network was there, and we had people that know this industry and they were all collectively just blown away. Every single guest that was there said they’d never been to an event like it.
Q. Did you even have time to sit down and eat?
A. Yes! Being someone who has been involved in weddings for years, I know that the reality is that on your wedding day you rarely ever sit down and get to enjoy your food. But Jess was looking out for us and made sure every part of the wedding was boxed up for us so that when we went back to the hotel at 2am we were able to try everything. We even took it with us on our honeymoon to Hocking Hills!
Q. What’s it like being married to another chef?
A. (Laughs.) When people ask where my favorite place to eat in the city of Cleveland is, I always say my kitchen because Andy is the most amazingly talented chef. It’s so helpful that Andy knows what I’m up against, and he understands the peaks and valleys of what we love to do for a living. When one of us succeeds it means more, because I know the effort that it takes to succeed on that level.
I respect Andy so very much. He’s the most talented chef I’ve ever met. When we first met, I left my job to go work for him because I admired his work ethic and sense of humor so much. That’s what I fell in love with and it’s the most valuable thing in my life. He’s just so ridiculously humble. He doesn’t know how talented he is! I’m jealous of his co-workers, but they know how lucky they are to have him, so it all works out!
All images marked with *stars* are courtesy of the couple’s talented wedding photographer, Ken Blaze Photography.