They grew up thousands of kilometres apart, met somewhere in between, and are now sharing a kitchen in Central Alberta.
Blake Anderson and Pavla Hruzkova are the 2013 operators of the Ellis Bird Farm Tea House. There, they’re serving up teas and specialty coffees, homemade soups and sandwiches, a variety of salads, and desserts like vanilla Bavarian cream.
Many of their ingredients come from Central Alberta farms, or a small garden that the couple maintains on the bird sanctuary southeast of Lacombe.
“We try to stay seasonal,” said Anderson, adding that customers appreciate locally sourced food.
Born and raised in Olds, Anderson has long had a passion for food himself. After studying engineering at Dalhousie University in Halifax for two years, he switched to the culinary arts, learning about baking at the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth and enrolling at Stratford Chefs School in Ontario.
Anderson spent some time travelling and working in Europe, ultimately ending up at a café and backpackers’ hostel in Mallaig, Scotland.
It was there that he met Hruzkova, a Czech citizen who had studied hospitality in her native country and was working at the same hostel.
The couple travelled to Canada several years ago. They worked at Lake Louise and Canmore, before taking over the food services operation at the Olds Legion.
Operating as Terre It Up Catering, they assumed responsibility for the Ellis Bird Farm Tea House this year.
Anderson thinks the converted farmhouse, which can accommodate 25 to 30 diners, has great potential.
“They haven’t really tapped the market that they said they could.
“I think it’s still being discovered.”
His and Hruzkova’s goal is to see the tea house become a destination in its own right, drawing people to Ellis Bird Farm.
After this season, they plan to resume their travels — this time exploring Thailand. But Anderson said they want to return to the Tea House next year, and perhaps expand the garden there so that they can produce more of the food they serve.
Ellis Bird Farm Tea House is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, and also on holiday Mondays.
Lunch is served until 3:30 p.m., with customers urged to make reservations by calling 403-885-4477.