Thursday, February 20th, 2014 was a day that Youville Centre’s young moms will never forget. On this special day, our young mothers had the amazing opportunity to visit Rideau Hall and spend time with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and his wife, Her Excellency Mrs. Sharon Johnston. Rideau Hall is the official residence and workplace of the Governor General of Canada, as well as a heritage site.
It all started back in December when Their Excellencies visited Youville Centre on International Volunteer Day. During their visit, our students enjoyed interacting with our special guests as they helped to bake cookies for the Christmas Luncheon. It came up in conversation that Her Excellency had a delicious cinnamon bun recipe, and one of our students innocently suggested that she share the recipe with Youville’s young mothers.
Her Excellency did much more than just share her recipe, she invited Youville Centre students and staff to visit Rideau Hall to bake the cinnamon bun recipe with her in the professional kitchen! A visit was arranged and we boarded the bus (which was generously donated by OC Transpo) to Rideau Hall. As we drove through the gates it was not lost on our students that this was a special place, and that they had been giving a unique opportunity.
Once inside, we made our way to the professional kitchen, where Executive Chef Louis Charest, Pastry Chef Irene Katerberg and their team use their creative culinary skills every day to create meals for Their Excellencies and their special guests. They explained how they marry Canadian cuisine with the native cuisine of each guest who visits to create a fusion-inspired menu. Guests who have dined at Rideau Hall over the years include Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Lady Diana, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will & Kate), Nelson Mandela, The Clintons, and John F. Kennedy among others.
Instructed by Pastry Chef Irene Katerberg and Her Excellency, the students enjoyed rolling the dough and learning how to bake the famous cinnamon buns. Her Excellency also took time to visit with two of Youville’s babies who came along for the trip. It was so wonderful seeing our students interact with Her Excellency and Chef Irene, they listened intently, asked great questions and also sneaked in a laugh or two! It was a very special moment in time for our moms, and I heard one of them say, “I’ll never forget this!” as she rolled up the cinnamon rolls alongside Her Excellency.
While the cinnamon buns were baking, we split into two groups and had the opportunity to tour Rideau Hall. Our tour guides Katarina and Mallory did a wonderful job leading us through Rideau Hall, presenting us with its history as we toured. We learned about Governor Generals past and present, and their contributions to Rideau Hall itself, as well as their contributions to Canadian culture through their work promoting Canadian sovereignty. It was interesting to learn that, when originally built in 1838, Rideau Hall had 11 rooms, while today “the building and its interiors have evolved to better reflect and reinforce Rideau Hall’s identity as Canada’s national home”(www.gg.ca). Our students enjoyed touring this historical landmark, admiring the Aboriginal artwork, and learning about the portraits of each Governor General of Canada. For many, the favourite room was the Tent Room, with its whimsical style and pink decor.
After the tour, while our students were enjoying the freshly baked cinnamon buns and hot cups of tea, we were informed that the Governor General wished to meet with us in his study! Everyone felt honoured to be invited in, and once inside the office, our young moms immediately noticed Their Excellencies’ grandchildren’s artwork on the walls. We enjoyed visiting with Their Excellencies and hearing wonderful stories from them about volunteering, giving back to their community, and ways they demonstrate their “Giving Moments” in life.
Many thanks go to the entire team at Rideau Hall for making us feel so welcome. Special thanks go to Their Excellencies for making this day unforgettable for Youville Centre’s young moms.