Secret Garden Dinner

It takes a village to build a garden.
The Secret Garden Dinner, a fine dining experience and a fundraiser for the EDGE (Engagement, Development, Gratitude and Experience) Spring Break service trip to Costa Rica, was the brainchild of Grade 12 student Josey L. and served as the culmination of her Soul Seeking project, but dozens of people — students and staff — helped to make it a reality.
“It wasn’t just my project. It was our project,” a grateful Josey emphasized. “I might have initiated the idea, but I can’t take all the credit.”

The dinner on Saturday, March 4 consisted of a gourmet three-course meal prepared by two talented Red Seal chefs who were assisted by Shawnigan students. The night started with appetizers, including an artisan green salad, puff pastry cheese bites or shrimp cocktail, followed by a main course of stuffed chicken, Bengal prawn pappardelle or herb-marinated sirloin steak. Dessert consisted of an Oreo cake pop. Guests were also treated to a virtual reality experience before they were seated, and could have their fortunes told by a “rose oracle.”
Most of the festivities took place in the Friesen Centre which was elaborately decorated for the occasion. For the theme, Josey took inspiration from the EDGE trip destination. Costa Rica got her thinking about sunny weather and lush tropical vegetation, which in turn sparked the idea of the Secret Garden. The decorations — facilitated by events coordinator Blair Sturrock and the grounds crew — proved so popular that they remained in Duke’s for several days after, and several people suggested they should stay up indefinitely.
Josey was also inspired by a similar dinner last year, A Starry Night Experience, that was led by Elle L. The Entrepreneurship 12 class has held Valentine’s Day dinners for several years, and last year, Elle took it on as her Soul Seeking project. As with last year, senior and junior entrepreneurship students filled a variety of roles, helping in the kitchen, serving, and hosting. EDGE group members also chipped in, and most of the musical entertainment was also provided by students.
“It was a huge team effort, with so many collaborators,” Ms. Solsberg said, calling it “imaginative, fun, and a great learning experience.”
Josey’s goal for her Soul Seeking endeavour, which doubles as her Grade 12 Capstone project, was to plan an event and raise funds for a good cause. She researched how to connect with the different groups she would need assistance from and learned problem-solving techniques and how to bring separate elements together. Even the timing of the event had a purpose as she scheduled it right for the last week before Spring Break to give the guests a fun boost for the home stretch.
The guests enjoyed the experience as much as Josey hoped, with one staff member sending the following note to Head of School Mr. Larry Lamont:
“I felt like I was at a top-notch venue in Europe somewhere, fully booked. The venue was enchanting, we were surrounded by nature, the service was outstanding, charming, well-mannered and efficient, and I had a mouth-watering steak cooked to a ‘T.’ A night I will always remember.”
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.