Sheena Howdle grew up in Central Alberta and has always had connections to farming in her family. Through school, she excelled at anything related to Home Economics and really enjoyed learning about baking and being in a commercial kitchen.
When she graduated high school, she chose to follow her passion for the written word and language. Originally graduating with a BA in English, she went back to school to learn Pastry and Baking Arts at the age of 26 and hasn’t looked back. She’s worked in multiple bakeries in Canada and in the UK. She’s also staged in bakeries across Europe. Sheena has a passion for bread making and also enjoys making and designing pastries. Even more, she always wants to learn new things about her craft and regional cooking.
What made you want to become a chef?
“I grew up in a family who always sought to nourish those around them. Family get togethers meant lots of cooking. Meeting up with friends meant that you brought them a treat for later.
I became interested in new methods of cookery and challenging myself. At baking school, I was introduced to the wood-fired oven, and I immediately liked everything about it. I wanted to make high quality products for my friends and family as well as my community.”
Why do you use Alberta ingredients in your kitchen?
“When you grow up around farmers, you have an innate sense of how hard they – and their families – work. Using Alberta ingredients shows respect to those farmers and respect for the land.
There are a lot of immensely skilled and talented producers in Alberta. It’s never a hardship to use Alberta ingredients. Using as many local products as possible is not only environmentally responsible but it also ensures that I know where a product is coming from, its quality and its process.”
What is your favourite Alberta ingredient to use?
“Flour from the prairies is always a treat. I really enjoy the spelt flour from A&D Milling in Castor, Alberta. I always appreciate the Alberta berry season and use as many as I can in their short season, whether they be from a local farmer, a U-Pick or my Dad’s back yard. Saskatoon berries and haskaps are personal favourites but I never turn down a bucket of raspberries or black currants.”
What dish should guests be sure to try on your menu?
“Our haskap turnover with Alberta honey and a creamy ricotta filling is a really nice, fresh summer treat.”
What is a favourite kitchen/cooking memory?
“The feeling of welcome. Every baker I’ve ever met has always welcomed me into their kitchen, let me bake with them, and taught me something new. Whether I was in one of the many bakeries across Europe that I’ve had the fortune to stage in or my Grandmother’s kitchen in small town Manitoba. I endeavour to pay this tradition forward.”
Why do you take part in Alberta on the Plate?
“Supporting local producers and making connections with other people trying to have a small business is important. It’s also important to me to show Albertans how many amazing products we can find in our own area if we look for them.”