Renovation is a popular idea these days whether the day dreaming version while watching HGTV or living the dream and updating your own home or business.  If you haven’t done it, be warned, it brings out the best and the worst in people.  After a little backstory, I’ll let you in on a few things that we were never told about renovation but have since learned.


We purchased a 1955 house three years ago.  This came after a 12-year process of renovating a 1912 home. We were young, childless when we bought it and did the work ourselves (with help from friends).  It was a learning process from the beginning.  We wanted to hold on to the character of the house, like the dark woodwork, stained glass and claw foot tub.  The largest part of that remodel was the kitchen…of course, we’re both chefs.  We had just completed it when we admitted to ourselves that having two adults, two babies, two cats and two big dogs in the home was becoming too difficult.  We sold it and bought our 1954 home.


The new house had the space, the Mid-Century vibe and was architect built, which showed in every nuance, design choice and layout.  We found out through some digging that the house was designed by John Polivka.  As you may well know, that is a huge name in architecture so when we decided to renovate the kitchen (chefs, remember?) we hired a firm to help us to ensure that the design met Polivka’s standards and cuddled right into the existing floor plan.  In this we had no choice.  The exterior of the home is stone and floor to ceiling windows in most rooms.

photo courtesy of Trulia





photo courtesy of Trulia






The original design had been modified/updated by the time we moved in….like in 1982.  We had a tiny Magic Chef oven, Formica counter tops, a non-operational hood and dishwasher, can track lighting and about 3 feet of counter space.  The cabinets were original (slightly modified) and we loved that the wood work was consistent throughout the entire home.  The kitchen footprint was large, but the prep space very small and only allowed one person to comfortably cook.  I’ll tell you, when Philip and I cook, we cook TOGETHER.


We lived in the house, as I said, for three years deciding on what could be done.  We consulted with three firms on the renovation before we selected one and we began the process last August.  We began demo at the beginning of February.  In mid-March we were here:






As we near the end of April we now can see our design choices





Things we know at this point:

  1. Have a design or elements of your design prepared for your meeting with your chosen designer. We used Houzz.  It’s a perfect way to create a folder for all the macro and micro details that tickle your fancy.  Philip had his folder and I had mine for a few weeks then we compared them to see what overlapped to enable compromise.  This info can all be shared with your designers.
  2. Choose your firm carefully, do your homework on their design galleries, pricing, reviews and don’t feel that you must stick with this company if they don’t feel right for you. Consider it an interview.
  3. Be clear with your expectations and especially your dislikes. Once you get to a place where they start drawing up real plans you will have to give them a deposit for their time and it is better when they understand your needs and wants.
  4. Be clear with your budget. Just like in the television shows, problems will pop up and if you are already at the top of your budget where will that money come from?  We opted to save some money by doing the demo and painting ourselves. Tell them this AFTER you get the bid.
  5. Ready yourself for making decisions/choices daily. Make sure you and your spouse/partner are on the same page.  Our firm has us each sign off on change order separately to ensure we both know what is on the table.
  6. This will not be a 6 or 7 week process, most likely (unlike TV). Your stuff has to go somewhere.  If you are going to store it, ensure that is part of your budget.  This is also a great time to purge the unnecessary items you have accumulated.  Where are you going to make dinner? What equipment will you use? Where will you do your dishes/laundry/sleep until the renovation is complete? We set up a make shift kitchen in our basement where there is an existing bar.  We have a butane burner and a toaster oven to do all our cooking.  Luckily, we own a restaurant where we can do all our dishes.
  7. Prepare your family for chaos. We prepared our children, but how do you prepare your animals?  That was one thing we overlooked.  Our two dogs have suffered more than we expected.  Even though they are both adults, their potty training has regressed.  We kennel them in our room so workers can come in and out freely.  This has eased their stress but our room smells of dog and is always fluffy with fur.
  8. If you are an organizer, be prepared to be….uncomfortable. You will not be able to find everything, know where items are all the time, put things away as you like.  Everything will take a longer, but you will adapt.
  9. The changes may take place slowly, but revel in the progress as it happens. This should be exciting and FUN!
  10. Watch when you can to learn. Ask questions if something doesn’t seem right. Bring up issues as they arise and document them with photos and correspondence.  A good company wants to make you happy.



Our schedule says that we will have a kitchen in May.  I will update the blog with photos as the checklist grows smaller.  One day at a time, one day at a time…






Last month, Chis Massey, Create's Bar Manager, won a well-earned space at the USBG Legacy Cocktail Competition that was sponsored by Bacardi.  He flew to Chicago mid-November to try for the title of champ.

His concoction was called Isla Blanca: an elegant dance of Bacardi Superior, lime juice, spiced pistachio syrup, coconut milk and allspice dram.

Although travel was difficult with a significant delay at the airport he was able to reach his destination in plenty of time to fetch ingredients and spend some time enjoying the scenery with a fellow competitor from Minneapolis.


The competition was held at The California Clipper Lounge located in the Humboldt Park area.  Chris and 9 others drew numbers for their order, had and hour and a half to prep which led to a seven minute presentation of their wares.  In that seven minutes the candidate had to make 4 cocktails while conversing about their inspiration.  Once the stress lifted, all 10 finalists and judges met at Avec for dinner and, what else, cocktails!

The winner of the competition wasn't Chris, but he's still number one in our book!  Good job and congratulations!






"First thing we're going to do is eat a dozen oysters."  Well, I said that, but the first thing we actually did was check into the hotel, grabbed a martini and a sazerac, walked into a city new to us...the motley city of New Orleans.  We immediately felt like we belonged, but had lost our map.  The neighborhoods are not structured N-S-E-W.  They were arranged to curve with the Mississippi.  So it took awhile to realize what "up river" and "down river"  meant along with "in" and "out." Walking the streets was the only way to immerse ourselves; enabling us to peek in shops, snap a photo of porches dressed for  Halloween and stop in for a cocktail or snack.


As chefs we had two objectives: eat what we HAD to eat and drink what we HAD to drink.  The originals, the can't-get-anywhere-else's and have-to-haves.  We didn't plan anything but our reservations for dinners and a few lunches.  The days were spent meandering and happening upon the locations that bewitched us.

We came across the Napoleon House.  This building has stood for nearly two hundred years and it bared it in its walls, floors, paintings and traditions.  We had to try a Pimm's Cup.  It was perfect for the warm, humid weather...a refreshing, adult Arnie Palmer.  We also tried the English Pimm's; a bit more intense, richer and deeper in flavor.


Pimm's Cup at Napoleon House

English Pimm's

English Pimm's


So by now we were ready for those oysters.  Nearly every storefront was a restaurant, nearly every restaurant offered seafood.  It was a toss up where to stop.  So, of course, we stopped many places.  The best oysters we ate were a surprise to us because they were from Alabama, Dauphin Island.  They. Were. Perfect.  Daunting at first, due to their size, we tip-toed on the first slurp.  The we dove.  They were juicy, briny, salty and turgid.  No other offers were taken, we simply ate these the entire time we were there.  Along with the complex delight of eating these oysters was the difference in the presentation and shucking method of the individuals presenting them.  By far our favorite was Bourbon House. (Yes, we enjoyed the he__ out of the bourbon as well).

Bourbon House

Bourbon House

Bourbon Bar shucking sink

Bourbon Bar shucking sink


Massacre Island oysters at Bourbon Bar

Massacre Island oysters at Bourbon Bar


Our favorite dinner was a bit out of our walking range-midtown, but worth every minute in the cab!  It was Toups' Meatery.  The staff was young and fun, the restaurant was just the right size, the meat board was perfection

Toups' Meatery

Toups' Meatery

Toups' Meatery Board

Toups' Meatery Board

and the cracklins...well I'll tell you, I'll start driving right now to get another fresh, hot basket from their kitchen! Two baskets (and a board) later we were rolled into our cab and walked it off into the late night to see some music and the immediate change in atmosphere once the sun went down.  New Orleans does not disappoint.



Another item making our list was an authentic shrimp po'boy.  We grabbed this for breakfast one day (who wants to waste bites on eggs??)  Hmmmmm...how do you choose the location?  Ask a bartender, one that you've spent some time with.  That's exactly what we did and he directed us to a small eatery ew would have bypassed, but we were so glad we didn't!  The simplicity of this sandwich leads some to believe it is easily replicated.  However, in the depths of NOLA when the humidity is high, the temperature is rising and when there's a lazy Susan of hot sauces at your disposal, I think the chances are slim to none.  You just have to be there.






New Orleans was a city we saw in 4 days, which means we saw so little but it changed us so much.  Not only did we meet some great people; we learned, we immersed, we were enveloped. The architecture was intriguing, the art was vibrant, the music surrounded us, the streets beat our feet and we couldn't have asked for more......

except more time.















So Spring has finally arrived here in Minnesota!  Yes, it's rainy.  Yes, it has been cool, but there is so much to look forward to in the next few weeks here at Create Catering & The Dining Studio!

This Sunday is our Spring Sunday Supper!  We have an all-out Spring theme and menu:

Family Style Dinner


 Spring Greens – marinated heirloom tomatoes/ cucumber vinaigrette/ shaved sweet onion/ red oak/

watercress/ watermelon radish/ goats milk feta (GF/ V)

 Grilled & Chilled – asparagus & fiddle heads/ fresh lemon/ crispy parsnips/ fresh dill

 Marinated Vegetables – baby green top carrot/ cauliflower/ white beans/ red wine vinegar/ olive oil


 Baby Kale Gnudi – sweet peas/ orange zest/ beet emulsion/ Prairie Rose (cheese)/ crispy speck

 Couscous -- grilled ramps/ lime vinaigrette/ grilled fennel/ apricot/ arugula-pumpkin seed pesto

 Local & Wild Mushroom Lasagna – caramelized morels/ local oyster mushroom/ house pulled

mozzarella/ fresh pasta/ thyme


 Roasted & Braised Local Lamb – Buffalo Creek Farms

 Basil Potato Puree – sweet cream butter

 Fermented Pepper Jelly/ warm rosemary hummus/ lamb gravy/ Curry Raita

 Savory Beignets – parmesan/ truffle


 The Perfect Short Cake – almond cake/ fresh strawberry/ chocolate dipped short bread wand/ whip/ red

wine caramel/ salted vanilla sugar cookie


This is going to another spectacular event at Create and it is so fun to be open to the public!  Here's the link:

Eventbrite tickets

Another upcoming event is the ever-famous Art-A-Whirl!  The Waterbury building is hosting Friday evening, all day Saturday and some events on Sunday.  There will be bands:

Friday Evening 6-10 pm
The Splendid End
Stellar Dendrites
Slam Academy
Saturday 12 - 8 pm
Slam Academy
Parlor Bandits
Top Rookie
Flavor Crystals
Chastity Brown
Twilight Hours

Beer is sponsored by our friends at Insight Brewing and hosted by yours truly, Create Catering on Saturday.Insight logo  The food truck on sight Saturday is Sasquatch Sandwiches this year, so be ready to eat, drink and be merry!

The Waterbury Building will be open to the public and businesses will be showing local art as well as their wares for your enjoyment!

Come visit us and celebrate a (hopefully) beautiful Spring weekend!




Photo courtesy Richie Burnside

The Norseman, Hawley, MN Photo by: Richie Burnside

Bryan, Sharon, Don, Thelma and Ron Wilner celebrating the opening of The Norseman in 1971

Bryan, Sharon, Don, Thelma and Ron Wilner celebrating the opening of The Norseman in 1971

"The Norseman" building in Hawley, MN is slated for destruction tomorrow.


You can never go home again.

When I was 6 months old my parents bought a building in Hawley, MN and called it “The Norseman. My grandparents, Thelma and Don Wilner, helped them to get it up and running. They themselves owned a diner in North Dakota, so the restaurant business was already in my father’s blood.

I ate my first solid food (thank you Perry Burnside), took my first steps, learned to dance with help from the juke box and numerous live bands, fell asleep on the black vinyl booth seats, had multiple birthday parties and met and ate my first snapping turtle (again, thank you Perry Burnside) there. There were so many hiding places that hide-and-go-seek was always an adventure. The huge sand dunes in the back lot were the source of many hours of dangerous afternoon play as were the gargantuan icicles that clung to the side of the building at the back entrance.

When I was 13 we were forced to close because the police made it impossible to continue our business. I was actually grateful, I was finally able to see my parents in a less stressed, more-present state. In high school we had prom dinner in the “back 40” and also a reunion dinner in the basement many years later. Both events initially gave me excitement and ended with disappointment. After 1984 it was never “The Norseman” again. It was the same structure, different furniture and decoration, different food and wrong. It was like revisiting your childhood home after 20 years with a different owner. Things had changed.

I loved the many years of experiences there, the memories that cling in the back of my mind and truly appreciate what I learned from The Norseman. I now own my own restaurant to continue the Wilner tradition. Thankfully, I also own the two carved wooden doors that once proudly stood at the formal entrance of that once-grand castle. Every time I touch the wooden crests that adorn them I’m 5 again and THEN I smile, I am home again.




Philip won!  The reigning #ironmettlechef for the next year!

Corey fought hard with his first course of a chicken-fried scrapple biscuit sandwich, but Philip's dishes won by 25 votes.  Now, we will look to next year for the next competition!

Photo by Dez

Corey and Philip

Photo By Dez

VIP seating




photo by Nicky Metchnek

Corey (top) and Philip's (bottom) Scrapple and eggs


Photo By Nicky Metchnek

The big reveal





photo by Nicky Metchnek

Philip's sliced duck with duck confit mofongo







photo by Nicky Metchnek

Beet juice cured sturgeon


Photo by Nicky Metchnek

Corey's seared duck, PP pancakes and Korean fried rice

Looking ahead to the next Sunday Supper on April 17th....we are having a seafood dinner!  Tables will have a plateau de fruits de mer, every course will be rich in seafood and fish and paired brilliantly by Leslee Miller from amusee wine.  We are very excited!  I'm hoping for open doors and a fire roaring outside.  Tickets go on sale through Eventbrite next Thursday!  I'll update the link once the event goes live.

Also, as a teaser, for May we are teaming up with Able Seedhouse + Brewery and planning a whole pig and goat roast.  What an official way to welcome Spring!  Bring a bib!



Valentine's Dessert

Valentine's Dessert

Corey, Matt, Zoraida, Alicia and Kenzie

Corey, Matt, Zoraida, Alicia and Kenzie

Floating Candle bubbles

Floating Candle bubbles





Second Sunday Suppers is a HIT! What a night!  Valentine's Day was so fantastic here at The Dining Studio!  We had a full house (we keep it small to keep the service standards high), the food was flawless, the desserts were pure creativity, the flowers were gorgeous and all by bubble candlelight.  It was just plain fun!

We enjoyed seeing so many of our friends, family and clients who we haven't seen for awhile.  The comments that we received are helping us make the next Pop-Up even better.  Second Sunday Supper in March will be the 13th and we are channeling Iron Chef with Philip Dorwart facing off against Corey Meier.  This is going to be game-show-festive with surprise ingredients chosen by the registered guests.   How fun is that??  When you register for tickets a question will pop-up at the end to ask you to choose, from a selection, what ingredients you want them to cook.  These will be kept a secret from our staff until the moment Philip and Corey have to use them to CREATE an entree to wow the room.  Guests will be able to watch the whole process and try both entrees to vote for the winner.

Tickets will go on sale Thursday, February 25th on Eventbrite.  Be prepared to reserve your seat, these will go quickly!  I'll post the menu under the Pop-Up Sunday Suppers category on the website next Tuesday.




The first of our Sunday Pop-Up Dinners is coming!!!!!!  Valentine's Day is it!  It is going to be fantastic, intimate, communal and the best way to celebrate in town!  Imagine it:  Easy parking (no valet worries, no meters, no ramps), champagne welcome, passed appetizers, communal seating, no waiting for your table, no rush to give your table to someone else, flowers, candlelight, tour de force 5 course menu with a free drink and cash bar........ahhhhhhh....finally a Valentine's Day celebration with a heart!  We are offering 46 seats in our Dining Studio (private restaurant) to our favorite people (you!).  Philip and I will be here as well as the rest of our talented crew to create the most effortless holiday of the season.  There will a cash bar replete with fantastic, hand-picked wine, beer and cocktails.

The tickets are on sale right now on Eventbrite for $70.00 per person.  The Chef's Table is already sold out.

eventbrite-Create Catering

Drum Roll............................................MENU!!!!!!!


Valentine’s Day 2016 @ The Dining Studio


  • East Coast Oysters – warm foie gras mignonette
  • Shrimp “Cocktail” – guajillo conserve/ lemon
  • Gruyere Gougeres – Mississippi mushrooms/ melted leeks
  • Red Greens – quince vinaigrette/ hazelnut/ torched fennel/ Pleasant Ridge Reserve
  • Mussels – kao soi broth/ smoked Heritage pork belly/ fried shallot “gremolata”
  • Gnudi – house-made ricotta/ caramelized cauliflower/ truffle/ Reggiano/ orange
  • New York of Prime Beef -- poutine gratin/ citrus fired kale/ red wine glace/ parsnip crisp
  • Chocolate & Strawberry Cube Cake – dried strawberries/ chocolate crunch/ caramel

***Vegetarian diets and dietary restrictions are easily accommodated****

We are very excited about the Sunday Supper Pop-up dinners and plan to do them monthly.  Stay tuned for  upcoming dates and information!

And now, on to the final planning!



How great is it to work at Create Catering and see all these fantastic dishes go out to our clients for their wedding tastings?  I have to say it is FANTASTIC! These beauties have come from our talented chefs to bring a taste of Summer to our bleak winter palates (I love squash as much as the next person, but....).  It is difficult to showcase some items that are bountiful in the Summer while looking at our schedule for January tastings.  We freeze and preserve produce from our farm at the peak of their harvest and hold on to them for just these occasions.  The flavors are still so fresh and it makes it much easier to imagine your reception and the dining experience you will have.

Tasting fish
Plated Chicken Beef Plated Salad color









Here we are in 2016!  Create Catering is buzzing with excitement, writing many new menus, collaborating with new venues and filling our calendar with new events.

Speaking of the new:  While meeting with all of our new and current clients we created descriptors of our styles of service.  This makes planning your event a breeze!  We adapt to each event, making the service seamless, but a list like this really can streamline the process and enable us to get to the fun stuff more quickly!

Light Hors d’Oeuvres 

  • 3-5 types of hors d’oeuvres / 4-5 pieces per person

Hors d’Oeuvres

  • 4-6 types/ 6-7 pieces per person

Heavy Hors d’Oeuvres = lighter meal

  • 5-10 types/ 9-13 pieces per person

Fork Buffet = medium meal

  • Combines heavy hors d’oeuvres with a few small pre-plated selections. The pre- plated dishes can be small entrees, sides or salads. The key here is that you can eat on your lap or standing up.

Family Style Dinner

  • Platters and bowls of food are set on the dining table and passed between guests. This generally happens in rounds – i.e. salads first, then entrées and sides, finishing with dessert.
  • Food Guidelines: 1- 2 Salads/ 2 - 3 Entrees/ 2 - 4 side dishes/ 1- 2 desserts

Plated and Coursed Dinner

  • 3 to infinity courses for a sit down dinner with china, glassware, silver and linens. This style requires more staff than a buffet, etc.


  • Standard Buffet will have 1-2 salads/ 2 entrées/ 2-3 side dishes/ artisan bread service/ small bite desserts


  • Stations can range from a light meal to a full assemblage of options for a client. Typically for a meal we would have three stations plus a dessert station.

This is such a helpful tool when considering your needs, budget and space for an event.  Let us know what you think!

Looking ahead.....

Valentine's Day:  We are creating an awesome intimate event here at The Studio!  Limited seats, champagne, tour de force menu!  This is to be the first of our Sunday pop-up dinners in our private restaurant.  We are so excited to share the evening with you and I'll update you as soon as it goes live!

Unveiled February 21, 2016...we will be there!  News to follow!


gingerbread houses for our staff party

gingerbread houses for our staff party

holiday detritus

holiday detritus

Kensie and her yule "log"

Kensie and her yule "log"


Being this close to another year passing, I tend to reminisce.  The last year here at Create Catering has been exciting!  I, Desiree' Dorwart,  recently returned to work here after a long hiatus.  For 14 years I was a Chef Instructor and taught many talented up-and-coming cooks.  The newest batch recently graduated and one of those fine students, Blake Wangelin works with us as well as two other former students:  Corey Meier and Zoraida Marquez. 

My six-year-old daughter Avery is helping here at Create Catering as well.  We cut up eight cases of strawberries yesterday, listening to and singing holiday tunes.  Blake was behind the counter mixing up a batch of authentic cabbage rolls for our holiday get-together.  Life runs full circle, doesn't it?  To have students become peers, cooking along side my daughter and me, made it feel joyful.  Bright, innovative youth in a creative environment dispelled all of my anxiety about this time of year.  I always ask if we have given enough.  So I reached out to another graduate, Grace Vanasse and her husband Dustin, at Bare Honey http://barehoney.com.  I'm so excited that they are bringing samples for us next week.  Their philosophy jives with ours so well and they are also a family business.  We are so looking forward to partnering with them!

In the hospitality industry the modus operandi IS to give.  To give all of our time, energy, skills and best efforts for each and every event is what we do.  It is also why we do what we do and why we are here at Create Catering & The Dining Studio Minneapolis.  Each and every person here loves what they do and they do it well...for you.

During this busy season find a minute to reflect, to see the people who surround you.  Give  yourself to them with a hug, a smile as you pass or a phone call out of the blue.  Hospitality comes full-circle with each gift of yourself that you bestow...

Zoraida and Blake

Zoraida and Blake

Philip and Avery cleaning oysters

Philip and Avery cleaning oysters



Anyone who has worked in a professional kitchen understands the dynamic of the "kitchen family."  You share your personal stories (good and bad), your limited amount of space, your knives(!), your ideas and, sometimes, an inordinate amount of time.  This can be claustrophobic, irritating and unbearable.  Here at Create Catering it's magical, inspirational and filled with boisterous laughter!  I love coming to work, hearing the music choice gives me a hint as to the character of the day.  I grab a cup of coffee and listen to the banter...

Today we are preparing for a weekend full of holiday parties.  Everyone knows what to do.   It is a organized chaos, a ballet of blades.  We are a team creating elegant fare in a kitchen that encourages closeness.  This creates food with heart, with soul.

When Philip and I came up with the idea of The Dining Studio and Create Catering we wanted a space of our own.  The space had to be light, unique and intimate.  It had to represent us and our food.  Then we plunged in.  That was in 2006, my how time has flown!

As I sit and write this today I am thankful for all of the people I work with on daily basis, our clients who feel as passionate about our food as we do and our camaraderie.  The first van is leaving, off to an event and the energy is high.  THIS is my present, THIS is truly a genuine gift.

Create Catering holiday kitchen

Create-tive kitchen!