Saskatoon chef shares love story, recipes in new cookbook

A Saskatoon chef is recounting her unique love story involving a vegetable farmer in her new cookbook.

Renee Kohlman says she met her partner in 2016 while they were both working at the farmer's market

Kohlman and her partner, Dixon Simpkins, share a love of food which is the topic of Kohlman's new cookbook Vegetables: A Love Story. (Submitted by Renee Kohlman)

A Saskatoon chef is recounting her unique love story involving a vegetable farmer in her new cookbook.

Vegetables: A Love Story, written by Renee Kohlman, includes a collection of stories and recipes shared between Kohlman and her partner, Dixon Simpkins.

Kohlman said in 2016, she was working at the farmer's market in Saskatoon when she noticed Simpkins working at his stall.

"He was setting out his potatoes and carrots, it was just one of those things where I looked over at him and thought 'he's kinda cute,'" she said.

Kohlman said every Sunday after she first noticed Simpkins, she noticed how kind he was with his customers. She said she admired him from afar until she built up the courage to go over and talk to him.

"Every Sunday I would bring baked goods, like cookies, or muffins, or whatever cake I had and I stopped by his table and I'd ask if he wanted some cookies or banana bread," she said. "He was always like 'yes! I would.'"

She said she invited him out to dinner and when the day came, Simpkins brought her a bunch of asparagus with twine tied around it. On the date, they stayed at the restaurant for three hours and staff had to ask them to leave as it was closing time.

"It was like the best first date ever!" Kohlman said.

The book, which comes out on Oct. 12, features asparagus on the cover. Kohlman says Simpkins gifted her a bundle of asparagus on their first date. (Submitted by Renee Kohlman)

Nurturing by sharing food

After that, Simpkins became the main person to test out Kohlman's recipes. She said for half of her life, she was a "solo eater."

"I always made really good meals for myself because I think when you feed yourself that's the best form of self-care, but with him it was a bit more fun honestly," Kohlman said.

"Cooking for someone is the biggest form of nurturing I think, and he nurtures me by bringing me the vegetables and I nurture him by making us food."

Kohlman said one of the most memorable meals she shared with Simpkins was the first meal she ever made for him.

"It's always kind of nerve-racking when you're cooking for a potential partner in your own kitchen," she said. "I made him these stuffed jumbo pasta shells with ricotta and lentils, and it was charred."

"It was delicious and he loved it, it's a bit of [a] labour of love when you have to make the ricotta filling, and you stuff the shells, and you make it, it's a bit of a process."

Inspiration for cookbook

Kohlman said she started thinking about an idea for her cookbook the moment she saw Simpkins. During their first date, she knew it would be a great story to tell.

"It's like the universe sort of shifted [the] night we sat down and we talked and we talked, and I was like 'this would make a great scene in my next cookbook, it'll be about vegetables and it will be a love story,'" she said.

Simpkins said what makes a meal with Kohlman special is her humour, charm and personality.

"When we're having breakfast and she gives me her last sausage," he said. "That's really special."

Vegetables: A Love Story will be released Oct. 21 with a virtual launch for the book happening at 7 p.m. CST on the McNally Robinson website.


Jennifer Francis a reporter with CBC Indigenous based in Saskatchewan. She is from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation and lives in Regina. Got news tips? Send them to

With files from Saskatoon Morning