In my career as a certified red seal chef, I am not only a food columnist, but also a published author, culinary instructor, and get hired as a host/MC for various events. However, one of my greatest accomplishments is also being a culinary travel host, and I owe the honour of having that title to a very special lady: Caryn Zimmerman.
We first met years ago after one of my live cooking shows. She was a huge supporter of me, and became a friend of mine, ever since. With her vivacious personality and expertise in the travel industry, along with my passion for food and people, we eventually became a great business team as we launched Chef Dez Culinary Tours. Many people have combined food and travel together, but no one did it quite like us. We had a knack for it, and our travel guests agree.
Our first Chef Dez Culinary Tour was in 2014 to Savannah GA. We wanted our tour guests to experience southern hospitality at its finest all while being surrounded by incredible history from one of the oldest cities in the USA. Twenty-four guests traveled with us for eight days, and I am now friends with many of these guests still to this day. This inaugural tour really opened my eyes to what Caryn can accomplish when it comes to travel and making sure our guests are looked after.
In 2015 the Chef Dez Culinary Tour took us and our guests through the state of Texas. We visited many cities, stayed at incredible properties, travelled to wineries, ate true barbecue, and much more. All of us left pieces of our hearts in Texas because of this amazing tour. Again Caryn shined. My favorite time with her was at the Texas State Fair: the world’s largest state fair.
Our last Chef Dez Culinary Tour was to the Canadian province of PEI in the fall of 2016. Here, with our tour guests, we got to experience not only the beautiful autumn colours of PEI, but also east coast living at its finest. The pinnacle part of this trip was staying at the property of Chef Michael Smith, The Inn at Bay Fortune, and having a private cooking event with Chef Michael. Although this trip was culinarily, focused around oysters and lobster, Caryn didn’t let her shellfish allergy stand in the way. Her motto was always “This is not about me. This is about our guests.”
Unfortunately, Caryn passed away on June 27, 2017 after a short, but fierce battle with cancer, and it is in her honour that I dedicate this column. Anyone who knew Caryn, knows how full of life she always was. Caryn was the type of person that made any party or gathering an event that no one would soon forget. From her flip-flops, to her sunglasses, wild outfits, and her zest for life, everyone knew when Caryn was there.
Thank you Caryn for not only being a friend and colleague, but also as a mentor. You have taught me so much over the years, and was always there for me. I miss you terribly and would give anything to hear your laugh and see your smile again. If I knew I was going to lose you so soon, I would have tried to spend even more time with you.
Because of this loss, the Chef Dez Culinary Tours are postponed indefinitely. At this point I can’t even imagine doing them again without her. The community of Abbotsford, where she resided, and everyone who she came across in her travels, would agree that we have lost a very special person. Rest in peace Caryn…
Chef Dez is a Chef, Writer, &Host. Visit him at www.chefdez.com