Sheila Whyte's casual approach to entertainingPublished on November 15, 2010

  • Sheila Whyte, Thyme & Again Catering. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Door wreath from Bloomfields Flowers. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Teagan (left) and Adam (right) share in a holiday tradition with mom. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • A festive punch works as part of the decor. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Simple greens look festive on Sheila's red china. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Fruit sitting in a bed of leaves and boughs, topped with pinecones, is an easy-to-make centerpiece. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

  • Sheila Whyte's kitchen. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

There are never enough hours in the day for Ottawa's 2004 Businesswoman of the Year Sheila Whyte, president and owner of the popular Wellington Street West Thyme & Again Creative Catering and Take-Home Food Shop.

Family time comes first with her husband Clayton and their two sons, Teagan (11) and Adam (7). Sheila's mother taught her the importance of good manners, eco-consciousness, the art of entertaining and making people feel welcome. Her business is based on a holistic approach to life based on forming bonds with people and sharing mutual experiences and knowledge. As her 50th birthday approaches, she hopes to visit Africa with her family and meet their two sponsored children. 

How did you get started in the catering business? I got the catering bug when I was supporting myself as a student at the University of Western Ontario working for a catering company. Coming home, I went into the hospitality, restaurant and catering business. I felt there was a niche for a take-home food shop in Ottawa, so I bought the company I worked for in 1991. This dream began with my husband and Rose Goyette (who is still my general manager) and one cook, all in a 500 square-foot space.

What was your career turning point? Catering was the beginning of a career that I had no idea would take over such a huge part of my life. I certainly have that entrepreneurial spirit in me - but wasn't aware of it at the time. 

Where does your inspiration come from to stay current in the competitive food industry? I work with a wonderful collaborative crew of ideas-driven people that care as much as I do to create what we do. I'm inspired by nature, simplicity and elegance and like to create more of a feel so the client always feels comfortable, loved and appreciated. It is a wonderful blessing to be able to step into someone's life and actually be quite intimate and personal with them for a short period of time.

Who does the cooking in your home? With our busy hours, my supportive husband does a lot of the cooking although l cook on the weekends. What we enjoy the most is cooking together, which we don't get to do very often, but when we do we remind each other to do that more. 

Do your children appreciate good food? My children appreciate the importance of raw products of good food especially fruits and vegetables. My older son eats basic raw and healthy food like vegetables, fruits and nuts. Both of them are becoming more exploratory as they get older. 

What dish is a family favorite? Pork tenderloin with a BBQ rub. Fresh green beans cooked with bacon, corn on the cob and rice pilaf with a hint of curry.

How do you entertain? We entertain very simply. I believe that it is about the people that are coming. It's as simple as sitting down and enjoying each other's company, not necessarily about the food. 

What qualities should a good host possess? Make your guests feel like they can just be themselves so that they are comfortable in your home at all times and not feel like they are being waited on. Entertain what reflects yourself. Try not to fuss too much and encourage guests to help themselves. Know who you are having over and make them feel at ease and part of the family by knowing their wants.  

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition with your own family? Christmas was a magical time and I remember going to Midnight Mass, lighting candles and coming back and opening one present, which was always pajamas. I continue this tradition today with my own family. 

Christmas cookies, a gingerbread house and traditional Christmas dinner, in the late afternoon, followed by a family walk. I have become my mother.

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