It’s a very special occasion when a family company celebrates its 75th birthday, so a surprise day of fun and great food was planned for all 66 staff members at furnishing specialists Lewis’s.
The catch? They had to prepare lunch, competing in a Cook-Off like real chefs in the Springfield commercial kitchen.
Afterwards in the Te Horo sunshine, everyone sat family style at long tables and feasted under the proud gaze of Lewis’s patriarch Ray Donald.
“This was an important celebration for us, so we wanted to do something pretty special,” said Gemma – Ray’s grand-daughter and Managing Director Terry Donald's daughter – who helped organise the day.
“Involving everyone was so important to us that we closed all the shops for the day – the first time we’ve ever done so.
“We’ve always been a foodie family, and impressed with Ruth’s food. So we knew a Cook-Off would give everyone a great time with great food. We kept it all a secret from the staff, wanting to treat people to something new and fun. And delicious!
“After morning tea and a glass of bubbly on arrival, everyone drew from a hat to put them on either Sushi or Pasta duties. Then it was off to the kitchen, where we were amazed at how organised it all was, with so much food and equipment ready for us.
“We all commented on the luxury of choosing from such fresh ingredients. Piles of beautifully ripe avocadoes were particularly impressive!
“In teams of four we donned aprons and got to work, with Ruth’s chefs to guide as needed. Initial nervousness soon disappeared as everyone relaxed and the noise level rose in the kitchen.
“It was quite funny that the Pasta crew were quite noisy and very competitive -- maybe they released their ‘inner Italian’? – while the Sushi team was quieter and very focused,” Gemma laughed.
“There was a huge buzz in the room, as everyone got into the spirit. It was even better when they discovered they could take leftovers home to show off!
“Our pasta and sushi were supplemented by deliciously fresh salads and vegetable dishes, and little dessert treats.
“Ruth awarded prizes for Best Overall Dish, Best Presentation, Cleanest Work Space and the Team Who Had the Most Fun over lunch. See menu here.
“A highlight was the beautiful 75th birthday celebration cake for Terry to cut, and how Ruth paid tribute to my grandparents as guests of honour. We felt quite honoured that Ruth was with us during the day, as we know she’s a very busy woman,” Gemma said.
She didn’t have to think in choosing her favourite items: “amazing roasted chicken and bacon sandwiches, and stunning crème brûlée! “
Photo Credit: Laura Deans from Lewis’s Home Fabrics.