Most people in Ottawa don’t realize how developed the wedding industry is. Even most of us who are in the industry don’t know a lot about each other beyond what we see while working together. This is what sparked the idea of speaking to, and photographing various people who are well known in the Ottawa area. As part of an ongoing interview project, we will be featuring a different wedding related person or business every week or two for the next few months.
This week we will be taking a look at the well known Le Belvedere venue in Wakefield, Quebec. More importantly, this post takes a look at the people behind the Belvedere and how it came about. To understand how the Belvedere came about, one has to look at the people who are behind it.
The most obvious person that most of us know because she has been the face of the Belvedere since the start, is Jessica Davey. Jessica is that tireless, always smiling, camera-shy, dynamo of a site planner who always keeps things running smoothly. Jessica hails from the Toronto area which prepared her for the hustle and bustle of Wakefield, Quebec. In case you have never been to Wakefield, yes, that is sarcasm. Jessica’s start in the hospitality business started at 19 when she was living in Toronto and living above a popular bar. The bar, like most bars, was open late and was noisy. Jessica decided that if the bar was going to be open, she may as well be working in it. Jessica showed an obvious aptitude and love for the industry and was managing a chain of restaurants by the time she was 21. This continued until she was 25 and plans for Le Belvedere began.
Kyle Davey is Jessica’s husband and a relatively new addition to the Belvedere team. While Kyle has been involved since the beginning with the initial setup, he spent the first few years in the life of the Belvedere, working in Toronto and Montreal while Jessica lived in Wakefield and planned for Le Belvedere’s grand opening. They always knew the goal was to run the business together but it would be 5 years before that dream could be realized. Since a very young age, Kyle’s life revolved around golf. Starting with hauling clubs around the golf course, attending school for pro golf management and then being a golf pro at the prestigious National Golf Club of Canada. When Jessica moved to Wakefield to be a part of the development of the Belvedere, Kyle managed to get 2 hours closer by moving to the Royal Montreal, and then finally to the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club in Ottawa. A year ago Kyle joined the Belvedere team full time.
When asked how these two met, Jessica’s abridged response was “It wasn’t pretty”. I decided not to dig any further. I prefer to focus on the fact that they, along with their crazy dogs Jack and Charlie, are ridiculously adorable.
Brian Fewster is the driving force behind the scenes. He’s so behind the scenes that there isn’t even a photo of him in this article! This is a shame since he has plenty of stories and character to fill up his own article. Brian’s life started in Scarborough during which time his family had a cottage in Haliburton. At the age of 15, Brian started his first job at Sir Sam’s Inn and Spa in Halliburton and that is where he stayed for the next 20 years ultimately running the Inn. His next project was the Carmichael Inn & Spa in Ottawa where he built and ran a successful business for 14 years. When that was sold in 2007, Brian purchased the land where the Belvedere would eventually be located. There was already an idea for an event facility of some sort at that time. What that meant, remained to be seen.
Frank Jousselin is the executive chef at the Belvedere. Frank’s early years were spent in Africa where his parents were teachers. He lived in the Eastern Townships afterwards, while work lead him to Bermuda and Europe. Frank connected with Jessica and Brian while they were investigating kitchen technologies for the Belvedere. You could say that they were introduced by an oven called Rational. Rational ovens come from Germany and have been taking the culinary world by storm by allowing chefs to better control food production in high volume kitchens. As someone who has had a steak at the Belvedere, I can fully endorse this method of cooking. In 2011, Frank was a rep for Rational Canada and was interested in what Jessica and Brian had in mind.
In 2008 Brian purchased a great piece of land just east of Wakefield, where he built the house that he would live in during the development of the Belvedere. That house is now the guest house where Belvedere couples get ready for their wedding, and stay for their first night.
In February 2009, Jessica arrived in Wakefield for a family visit. Brian happens to be Jessica’s uncle and he showed the family around the property. Brian described the ideas for a small event facility and Jessica was intrigued. It was obvious that Jessica’s experience fit well with Brian’s and she knew this was something she wanted to be a part of. Three months later, Jessica and Kyle started construction of their own home only a short walk from the Belvedere.
2009 and 10 were all about research and planning. One of the first ideas that changed the course of plans for the Belvedere came about after attending a major wedding show in Ottawa. Originally planned as a smaller venue for up to 40 people, feedback from the show indicated that the location would make for a popular wedding spot. The plan soon called for the 200 person facility that we know today. Plans, a website, and contractors came together over the next year. Starting in late 2011, the Belvedere was built offsite using high efficiency, passive techniques. By January 2012, all the pieces were delivered to the site for assembly. While all of this was happening, weddings were being booked based on plans and concepts. This gave them 5 months to have everything assembled, landscaped, and polished for their first wedding in May.
After a busy winter full of planning, designing and building, the Belvedere was ready for it’s first wedding on May 20th 2012. As anyone in the wedding industry can relate, your first wedding is always a whirlwind of a day. From Kyle and family members working in the kitchen to wash dishes for 100 guests in the vegetable sink because the custom dishwasher was still “onroute,” to the moment Jessica realized that she received King and Queen size bed sheets to linen the head table, the day was filled with family and friends rallying around and working tirelessly to ensure the minute the guests arrived, they were ready for what turned out to be a perfect start to Le Belvedere’s story. Almost 250 weddings later and a typical wedding at the Belvedere runs like a well oiled machine.
A typical wedding day at the Belvedere starts with Kyle on site by 9:00am to meet with vendors and to be on hand for deliveries. This is the time when the venue is set up and prepared for the day. By noon, Jessica arrives to take the reins for the wedding. Kyle takes a break during this time and is back by 4:00 to begin greeting guests and assisting with final touches. Both Kyle and Jessica are there throughout the entire wedding to take care of every detail before they both lock the doors at 2am. Frank rules the kitchen of course and Brian’s new focus is on the Grand Hotel, making sure that guests are settled in, having food available and shuttling people to the Belvedere and back.
Things continue to evolve at the Belvedere. Last year we saw the addition of the upper deck and this year is even bigger. There will be some changes to the Belvedere grounds but the most exciting news is the opening of The Grand Hotel. Earlier this year, the old Wunderbar Hotel in Wakefield was purchased and renovations have been ongoing. As the photos show, things are ready for the 2016 season! The beauty of the Grand from a wedding perspective, is that every couple who has a wedding at the Belvedere has priority for use of the Grand along with their family and friends. This allows families to have a greater overall experience together.
As for the future, things for this year will be focused on making what is already there, even better. The Belvedere team never stops fine tuning what they have, making the experience better year after year. As someone who photographs there yearly, I know that even the vendors notice the continual improvements.
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