North Shore cheesemaker to dine with royalty
UPPER ECONOMY - Local cheesemaker Willem van den Hoek will sample a slice of royal life next week when he sits down to dine with Monarchy.
Known locally as That Dutchman, van den Hoek was surprised to receive an email from the Governor General's office asking if he would be interested in attending a dinner on Remembrance Day at Rideau Hall with Prince Charles and wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
"Curiosity is driving me to go," he said, adding he never thought about "hob-knobbing" with royalty before this week. "They're just people. We'll just see what comes of it."
The royal couple began an 11-day Canadian tour in Newfoundland on Monday that will take them to Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
The cheesemaker said at first he was hesitant to accept the invitation, but his 82-year-old mother in the Netherlands, talked him into it.
"She said, 'You can't say no Willem.' You have to go,'" he said. "So I guess I have to go, my mother says so."
For the past 30 years van den Hoek and his wife Maja have operated That Dutchman's Farm in Upper Economy where they produce gouda and Dragon's Breath blue cheeses.
He isn't concerned about what he will wear to the formal occasion, leaving those details in the hands of his wife, who will travel to the capital city with him but was not invited to the royal affair.
So far, van den Hoek has few details about why he was chosen to attend the regal celebration, the evening's itinerary or the menu but is hopeful some of his cheese products may be served.
He is also hoping being cast into the international spotlight will trigger positive benefits in the coming year for tourism in the province and the Halifax Farmer's Market, where he has been selling his products on weekends faithfully for the past few decades.
He isn't worried about striking up a conversation with the prince, assuming any encounter they may have would be brief.
"He'll probably ask the questions, I assume," he said.
The businessman said he doesn't know if he would be permitted to bring the couple a gift or not, but has an idea in mind.
"I might give him a gift certificate so he'll have to come here to use it," said van den Hoek.