OTTAWA - Many 16-year-old boys take the set-it-and-forget-it approach to cooking: throw something in a microwave, heat and eat.
But Kyle Nicklas is working by hand to help make a meal he won't soon forget: the feast that Prince William and his bride Kate will enjoy on their arrival at Rideau Hall on Thursday.
A high school student from Tavistock, Ont., he's one of 19 aspiring chefs brought to the Governor General's home to prepare the meal for the royal reception.
"It is an honour, because I'm only 16 and this is probably going to be the biggest meal of my life, even in my whole career," he said while scrubbing oysters.
Over at the pastry station, Arielle Schwab from Vancouver cut circles of dough to make dozens of tiny phyllo cones. She's part of Culinary Canada's Juniors team preparing for the World Culinary Olympics in 2012.
The 21-year-old said she's ecstatic to be baking for the royals, but is a little nervous.
"I want it be completely perfect," she said. "They are just regular people obviously but with a little bit more hype."
The young chefs aren't slicing and dicing on their own, but work under the guidance of the seasoned pros in Governor General's kitchen. Their presence is part of the overall theme of the first day of the tour: connecting young Canadians with the young royals.
Executive chef Louis Charest said he did a lot of research when it came to preparing the menu.
"We want to make sure we represent the whole country as much as possible," Charest said.
Once completed, the menu was forwarded to the royal couple who signed off on the plan.
Charest wouldn't divulge any of his recipes, but gave a rundown of some of the ingredients: sea urchin harvested by a scuba diver from the North; spotted prawns plucked off the Queen Charlotte Islands; yak from Alberta; fruit wines from Saskatchewan; and cheese from P.E.I.
"These are secret treasures that people have in their communities," said Christine MacIntyre, the Governor General's director of events and visitor services.
"That's what's really important: bringing people's backyards together to this backyard so we that we could share together in one great big picnic."
The meal will be served at a reception on the terrace of Rideau Hall, where more than 100 Canadian youth selected for the community work will have a chance to mingle with the newlyweds and other guests.
While the young chefs will also have a chance to meet the royals, they won't be able to take home a souvenir photo of them enjoying the meal. Protocol stipulates no photographs be taken of Prince William and Kate while they're eating.