Like what she learned from her worst job ever
Culinary Capers Catering CEO Debra Lykkemark has worked in the hospitality industry since she was 13, when she got a job as a busser at Dunaway’s Double D Steak and Pancake House in her native Calgary. After a few more restaurant gigs, she decided not to pursue an education in business (making her mother cry) and moved to Vancouver, where she took a 12-month course at Dubrulle International Culinary and Hotel Institute. She completed her apprenticeship, then persuaded some friends to collaborate in opening a coffee shop on West Broadway and began catering corporate lunches.
Three decades on, Lykkemark has catered a dinner on the Great Wall of China; a gala for the world’s first Formula 1 race for electric cars in Beijing; a 4,500-person gala for an NHL all-star game; events for the Russian athletes and sponsors during the 2010 Winter Games; and eight days of events for the 2015 opening of Nordstrom Pacific Centre. Last month the Vancouver chapter of the International Live Events Association named Culinary Capers caterer of the year. Right now Lykkemark and her team are gearing up for the busiest time of year—the holiday season—but here’s what interests her beyond cooking.
What is your favourite spot in B.C.?
Vancouver is home, and I love living in this city. For a vacation, the Okanagan wine region is a favorite getaway. The whole area, from Kelowna to Osoyoos, is absolutely gorgeous, and the food and wine experience is second to none.
Where did you go on your last vacation?
Sonoma in California. Love that area, the wines, the weather, the restaurants and the friendly people.
I love AnnaLena for dinner In Vancouver. The food is always delicious and innovative, and the service staff are very gracious—be sure to have the mussels with torn bread. In San Francisco, I love to go to Boulevard and sit at the food bar facing the open kitchen. The experience is like watching a performance, seeing the way the chefs work together, and the food is outstanding!
What is your most memorable podcast, film or book?
Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. What an amazing woman and amazing couple she is with Barack. What they achieved, from humble beginnings, is such an inspiring story.
What is your morning routine?
Michael, my partner in life and work, makes a gorgeous fruit salad with at least five different fruits and berries. I have mine with either cottage cheese or plain Greek yogurt and hemp hearts. My morning beverages are a cappuccino and a combination of vitamin C and marine collagen dissolved in water. Then we usually go for an hour-and-a-half walk on the seawall.
I love to travel. Our next major trip is a cruise through the Baltic sea from Amsterdam to Copenhagen on the Scenic Eclipse.
Best advice ever received?
My manager at a restaurant in Calgary promoted me to management when I was 20. His advice to me was “Never be afraid of hiring people that know more than you do; they will only make you look better.” I have followed that advice for decades, and it really does work.
Your worst job ever?
Cold calling to sell ceiling fans to industrial warehouses. Lasted one week and never did sell a fan. Learned that to be successful in sales, you need to be excited about the product you are selling, so I started a catering company.
What is your favourite quote?
“As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us.” —Winston Churchill
If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?
I would be a Bernese mountain dog. They are intelligent, affectionate, loyal and always appear to be smiling.