Chef makes lemonade from lemons

Cancer diagnoses inspires cookbook

Annie Campbell working in the kitchen at Voyageur Bistro. Photo SPIN.

Anyone who has enjoyed eating a meal at Voyageur Bistro in the past five years has Annie Campbell to thank for creating infamous recipes like beer and bacon marmalade, duck drumettes and pork belly ribs.

But Campbell was forced to step back from her role as head chef after being diagnosed with cancer in October 2017.

The diagnoses was serious, and came as a shock to the 30-year-old who thought she was having minor issues with her gallbladder. Doctors told her to expect to receive chemotherapy for the rest of her life. But one of the hardest parts of digesting the news was being told to stop working the line in the kitchen.

“That was hard. I actually really like my job,” she said. “It’s been such an amazing experience, my first head chef job, I was creating the first menu…it was definitely, after the diagnoses, the worst thing to hear.”

After getting the news and beginning treatment Campbell said she spent a lot of time at home and visiting with friends and family but grew tired of always being  in the same place and knew she still liked cooking. It was then she realized she had a chance to do something she had always dreamed of— creating her own cookbook.

“I said ‘I’m taking life’s lemons and making some lemonade.’”

In early 2018 she began the process of refining her well loved recipes and scaling them back to be used in home kitchens instead of restaurants.

She wanted the recipes, all classic Canadian fare, to be complemented by information on Canadian history and began her research.

Campbell was helped by Gemma Harris, friend and owner of Alpine Images Photography, who photographed the meals and by Sun Peaks artist  Zuzy Rocka with illustrations and a logo.

Once the information was compiled and photographs were ready Campbell created the book herself, teaching herself computer programs to layout photos with recipes and information.

Sun Peaks artist Zuzy Rocka created illustrations for the book. Photo SPIN.

In May she received the final printing proofs of the book.

“It was so exciting, almost seeing it, holding it in my hands,” she said. “It’s my baby, it’s something people can tangibly hold and take to their homes. I’m still a bit overwhelmed by it all.”

After all of her hard work she settled on the name “The Little Ladle Presents: Classic Canadian Fare.”

“The Little Ladle” is a name she has always dreamed of using if she opened her own restaurant serving fresh bread and stews, something she’s realized may not be feasible now. But she said she would like to create other cookbooks in the future, especially one focused on soups and stews.

“With the last name Campbell I also make some pretty amazing soups.”

In June 1,000 copies of the book will overrun her home before they can be distributed to retailers around the village who have asked to sell them.

She also received sponsorships from businesses to cover her costs so money raised from the book can go directly to her and her treatments.

“I’ve never been one to ask for handouts. I thought this is something I can do that I love but also fundraise (because I can’t work).”

In June Campbell will have the chance to launch her book where the journey began, at Voyageur Bistro in the Kookaburra Lodge.

The book will be available to purchase from village retailers by June 20.

Annie preparing food in the Voyageur Bistro kitchen. Photo SPIN.

She said her plans are to take a break and enjoy her accomplishment and spend more time with friends she has made since she arrived in Sun Peaks 10 years ago before thinking of a second cookbook.

“I’ve been offered pretty much everything which is so lovely. I try to stay positive. Some days are better than others. There’s a plethora of people I can call who will just be there.”

She will require more chemotherapy at the Kamloops Cancer Clinic but does her best to stay upbeat.

“My luck’s got to turn around at some point,” she said with a laugh. “It was a blessing in disguise, having more time to see people more and hang out with people more. It’s giving me a chance to make stronger connections with people, I really did work too much.

“I still hold out hope I’ll be able to come back even part time.”

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