Chef Carline Bengtsson’s talents make her a mix of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, Mary Poppins, and an international travel agent.
How, you ask?
Born in Jamaica, Carline grew up to marry a Swede, travel the world, and found herself fascinated and inspired by the flavor palettes she encountered—especially throughout Asia and Scandinavia.
When you book a Dine4Dinners Experience with Carline, she brings the ball to you. Carline works with her client-hosts to determine what’s necessary to set the table for a transformative experience for all the guests. With her magical bags and crates in tow, Carline arrives with all the necessary meal ingredients. Working in the temporary office space of the host’s kitchen, she prepares, serves and cleans up the meal—managing to head back to her Lindstrom home base before the guests begin to leave. She seeks to leave the kitchen spotless, like she was never there, and yet the photographic evidence of the beautifully plated meals remain.
Carline’s second career as a private chef developed behind the scenes of her nearly 30 year career in bringing cardiovascular products to market at Medtronic. As a child, she used to help her mom in the kitchen, “That’s how I learned the value of a home-cooked meal. I was the oldest of three siblings. Sunday was an important day for us. You didn’t miss Sunday dinner.”
Her husband Lars loved to cook. In spite of disagreements due to his preference for potatoes and hers for rice, they found happiness in cooking and eating together and with their circle of family and friends. “We did a lot of entertaining. It was something that was fun. We enjoyed getting together and having conversations around the table over good food,” reflected Carline. “People would tell me that I needed to open a restaurant or write a cookbook. I always thought—come on! I have a job. I never imagined myself doing this professionally.”
After her husband passed away in early 2012, Carline found herself daydreaming about the role food had played in their lives. Her first “Ah-ha!” moment came when she asked some of her family and friends what they would say about her cooking if they were food critics. “Their responses were so positive and enthusiastic. I began to see a path that I hadn’t recognized that I was on. Maybe I should write a cookbook.” She started the process in late 2013 and had her book launched in January 2015. “I knew nothing about writing or self-publishing a cookbook,” shared Carline. “I had no idea that there were all these people in my life who were waiting to help me with this new venture.”
With her cookbook Carline’s Fork & Cork Simply Delish! to her credit (most recipes come with suggested pairings from family-owned Winehaven Winery and Vineyard in Chisago City), she found herself wondering what her next move would be as she planned her retirement from Medtronic four years later.
Her next “Ah-ha!” moment arrived when she sought to redeem her remaining Medtronic Reward Points before retiring. With 19 points, she discovered that she could feed a child through Feed My Starving Children for 19 weeks. “That was when I realized what I needed to do when I left Medtronic—to use my cooking to pay it forward to those in need.”
Since launching Dine4Dinners in June 2020, more than 120,000 meals have been donated to combat food insecurity throughout Minnesota and beyond our state’s borders. Another nearly $60,000 has been raised to support charity fundraisers through silent auctions and local organizations’ initiatives. Hosts receive a 25% discount on the price of the meal with the understanding that those funds are to be donated to a food support organization of their choice. “There are so many avenues providing meals for those in need and yet it’s frustrating that it’s not enough,” reflected Carline. “I’m happy to be a small part of helping to meet those needs. For me, just being one person, it’s pretty amazing what Dine4Dinners has done in just under two years.”
Carline sources fresh and organic ingredients in the meals she prepares for her clients. Her dinners are typically a five course meal. As I listened to her description the menu for her next event, it was fun to see her smile deepen as she explained each course. Given how visibly happy it made her, it’s no surprise that the most consistent adjective used to describe her meals is ‘amazing’.
Carline travels from Lindstrom throughout the Twin Cities Metro transforming people’s home spaces. She currently has some openings in August and is booking experiences through the rest of 2022.
The greatest limitation of Dine4Dinners is the fact that Carline is the only chef. When serving a larger group, Carline depends on her Ambassadors who volunteer with her as culinary assistants. “It would be great to get another chef on board who would want to work with this same model. With another chef, we could really grow.”
Carline looks forward to continuing building her village of fellow foodies. She started a newsletter “Get to Know Those Who Serve” to highlight the contributions of people working to bring positive change. “I want to promote others doing good. We all need to lift each other up,” shared Carline. “At the core of my being, I’m a natural giver. Giving back was the mission at Medtronic. It’s something that I took with me after retiring. It’s all about leaving a legacy where people will remember you because of what you did.”
Visit https://dine4dinners.org to see sample menus, read reviews, buy her cookbook and start planning your own dining experience. Brunch, lunch and dinner are all possible!
4 c. mixed greens
1/2c. raw asparagus, chopped
1 c. diced mango
1/4c. fennel, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp. unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 tps. Dijon mustard
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Pinch of Garlic Power (optional)
Ground fennel seeds (optional)
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Garnish: 1 tsp. orange zest
Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk together well.
Salad Assembly: Place the mixed greens on a large salad plate. Top with mango, asparagus, and fennel. Dress with orange vinaigrette dressing. Garnish with orange zest. Enjoy!
Visit https://dine4dinners.org to learn more about Chef Carline’s menu offerings and her give back program. Follow her on Facebook at #carlinesforkandcork and @mosaicdelish on Instagram to see what’s going on in her kitchen.
Follow @meettheminnesotamakers both Facebook and Instagram to meet more makers and growers making Minnesota an amazing place to live!