Diana Harrison grew up in Liverpool, and lived in Australia and Spain, before meeting her husband, moving to Edmonton and making it her family’s home. She was a private jet flight attendant for 10 years and, besides that, always worked in some form of hosting or presenting role, usually involving food. “I am into creating spaces and bringing people together,” she says.
Her pre-Edmonton life taught her lessons only a world traveller can learn from experiencing a span of cultures and food infusions. But one experience — one place — made a particularly lasting impression, and serves as a guiding light, even a faraway muse, to this day.
“I worked for a holiday company and lived in Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca, and I went to a bar called Bar Abaco,” she says. “I walked in and there was fresh fruit all the way down the stairway, fresh flower petals every hour were thrown from the balcony. There were doves flying around, it was magical. The ambience was so ethereal, it was like walking into a Baroque painting. That was my greatest inspiration and it comes through in my boards.”
Her boards are charcuterie boards, which Harrison turns into works of art with her aptly-named company, the Art of Charcuterie. She started it in 2018, after friends couldn’t stop gushing over her much better than average dinner party presentations.
After networking with local producers like Meuwly’s and the Italian Centre, she began prepping in her kitchen and presenting at other home dinner and office parties. It starts with the multi-level boards, which can be big enough to serve up to 200 people. Artistic candles, ornaments and display signs come next, along with real and faux foliage and edible flowers. And, finally, the food, which when surrounded by all the art, florals and fruit, is a beautiful, miniature version of what she saw in Bar Abaco many years ago (minus the doves).
Ever the hostess, Harrison’s presence isn’t required but is key to suggesting new combinations and completing the experience. “I did a presentation once for 35 people and it was a private meeting, so I wasn’t needed. But when I came back two hours later, hardly any food had been touched. I was like, Oh no! But when I asked why, they said it looked too beautiful to eat.”
This article appears in the March 2020 issue of Avenue Edmonton.