Living

Backstage dishes

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Backstage dishes
Shaire Stevenson knows how your favourite touring star likes to eat, play and, yes, mess around. They ask; she delivers–piles of flowers for Shania Twain, awesome veggies for Marlon Brando, even toy eyeballs for Sarah McLachlan. Carl Warren went backstage with Canada’s queen of celebrity catering and files this report

By Carl Warren
First published in Chatelaine’s May 2000 issue.
©Carl Warren

Celebrity caterer Shaire Stevenson struts into the backstage dining area of Toronto’s Air Canada Centre carrying the finishing touch for the decor–a six-foot-tall cardboard Betty Boop statuette–which she carefully places on the sushi bar. It’s just a few hours before the 21st century, and just minutes before the Tragically Hip is expected in for dinner, along with 150 others: six additional Canadian bands, their “people” and the stagehands. Stevenson has to feed them all before they launch into their New Year’s Eve end-of-the-millennium concert in the stadium upstairs. Stevenson owns Capers Catering on Location, with clients from movies, television and rock concerts. As exclusive caterer for House of Blues Concerts Canada (which bought Universal Concerts last fall) for all shows in southern Ontario, Capers has fed everyone from the Sex Pistols to the Rankins.

Stevenson, who admits to “going all out this New Year’s Eve event, is all energy as she checks the final details, down to the kazoo at each place setting. “OK, stations, everybody; I’m going to do my hair,” she tells her staff of 50 or so after the last kazoo has been tested to make sure it works. Stevenson radiates a certain star quality of her own, bedecked in knee-high black boots (she has three walls of them at home), black skirt, black blazer, piled-high red hair, bright pink nail polish and a cluster of diamonds and rubies glimmering on her fingers. Her 30-year-old daughter, Genevieve Nardone, Capers’s second-in-command, is wearing skintight silver pants.

Although she’s glammed up like this most of the time, Stevenson rolls up her sleeves with the rest of her staff. Tonight she has co-ordinated the arrangement of the festive accoutrements–linens, balloons, tulips, gladioli, rhododendrons, English ivy and Betty Boops–to transform this gulag-ish space of concrete floors and glaring overhead lights into a cosy setting for a gourmet feast. As the musicians and their entourages begin to drift in, candlelit chandeliers illuminate heaps (seven vans full) of gourmet food: jumbo garlic shrimp, fresh Atlantic salmon, filet mignon, tofu wrapped in bok choy (an upscale cabbage roll), a rice mix of lentils and sesame seeds, a sushi bar, gingerbread cookies and home-made pies. The food has been prepared, as are all Stevenson’s in-town orders, at Capers headquarters in northeastern Toronto. For out-of-town orders, there is a kitchen-equipped catering truck.