It started, like many good ideas, with an offhand remark over coffee. And before I knew it, I was smashing garlic next to Premier Rachel Notley — a good way to let out your frustrations, she advised.
Let me back up a bit.
With an election looming, we wanted to learn about the people behind the platforms.
Could we, wondered Global News producer Kevin Jesus, get a look inside the leaders’ lives? Would they consider something personal, casual, unlike anything we’ve done before?
That something, we quickly decided, was cooking. Because we all know the best conversations happen in the kitchen.
David Khan grew up eating his English grandmother’s Yorkshire puddings and homemade pies.
“I remember she’d make bread from scratch. It would always be sitting on the registers around the house, leavening,” he recalls.
Khan drew upon childhood memories when he stepped into the kitchen with us, whipping up a family favourite: Grammie’s stew.
In a conversation that focused on the leader outside of the political arena, we discovered a resume that ranges from summer work laying oil pipe near Brooks, to a legal career that included writing briefs for the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Liberal leader took over from David Swann two years ago.
“You do have to have a first name David and a last name that rhymes with Swann or Khan,” he joked.
He likes to read science fiction and watch political dramas, although spare time is rare right now.
Even making dinner takes a backseat these days: “Usually it’s at nine or 10 at night, when I’m back from an evening of door-knocking.”
Stephen Mandel’s specialty is breakfast. When his grandson comes over for the weekend — a frequent event — Mandel prepares his favourite: eggs in a basket. For us, he made that and French toast, two ways.
“There’s no bread better than challah bread for French toast,” he said, handing over a fresh slice to sample.
Even though our goal is to chat about everything outside of politics, it’s tough to ask Mandel personal questions. Not because he’s closed off — just the opposite, in fact — it’s not uncommon for him to hug or dance his way to a podium.
It’s tough because of his continual culinary play-by-play: “I’m the messer-upper.”
Still, between laughs we learn that he’s a longtime regular at the ball diamond, often assuming the demanding position of shortstop.
We also find out he has a snack habit.
“I’d be a great poster boy for potato chips.”
And that he may know the secret to a happy marriage.
“I always do the dishes.”
Watch below: To help you get to know Alberta’s party leaders away from the podium, we’re launching the Kitchen Party where leaders pick the meal. Jennifer Crosby cooks and chats with Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel.
Jason Kenney has a signature dish, and it’s not a steak or a pot roast or even a Stampede burger.
“It’s a wonderful winter dish,” said the UCP leader as he showed us how to prepare chana masala.
Though he doesn’t get much time in the kitchen these days, he cooked from his own recipe published in an old caucus cookbook from his days as a federal minister.
As the onions simmered and the spices sautéed, we chatted about his travels, his childhood, his love of music – everything but politics.
When it comes to music, “just about everything goes,” said Kenney. “I even had a brief punk rock phase as a kid.”
Music is part of his heritage thanks to his grandfather, big band dance leader Mart Kenney.
He recalled a childhood that also included the “endless sky and big winters” of small-town Saskatchewan, and an elementary school with three classrooms covering nine grades.
“It was a special place to be a kid,” he said.
Watch below: To help you get to know Alberta’s party leaders away from the podium, we’re launching the Kitchen Party where leaders pick the meal. Jennifer Crosby cooks and chats with UCP Leader Jason Kenney.
Notley would much rather be on the running trails than in the kitchen. Still, she agreed to share the secrets of a dish she makes “that one time out of every three weeks when I actually go into the kitchen.”
In the course of a conversation about everything but politics, we discovered she doesn’t like to cook but that her two teenage kids will eat their greens when she prepares the family version of fattoush.
The premier and NDP leader is rarely described as a working parent or a mother-of-two, and she’s managed to maintain space between her public and personal lives.
But in an interview that focused solely on the personal, we asked how the kids feel about having the premier as a mom.
“I think, at times, they’re proud but at other times they’re irritated,” she laughed before clarifying she thinks that like most teens, hers prefer to be treated for who they are as individuals.
READ MORE: Global News Election 2019 Fact Checker
We also learned she’s handy around the house, preferring a fix-it project to fixing dinner and that she walks to work whenever she can, even during February’s brutal cold.
What else surprised us? To hear the premier of Alberta quoting “The Simpsons,” for one.
Watch below: To help you get to know Alberta’s party leaders away from the podium, we’re launching the Kitchen Party where leaders pick the meal. Jennifer Crosby cooks and chats with NDP Leader Rachel Notley.
Tune in to Global News on Friday as Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan serves up a family favourite.
Global News Kitchen Party was shot on location in Edmonton at Kitchen by Brad.