Category Archives: Meet the Chef

Each month we will profile a different food service operation in the BC Highway 16 region. Browse the profiles below to get to know your local chefs.

November: Two Sisters Catering

Janet and Christine Blair began Two Sisters Catering out of their home kitchens in 2005, mainly catering for friends and family.  The business grew modestly in the first few years, but has recently taken off, and the sisters are moving full steam ahead.

When asked what they think the biggest draw is for their customers, Janet suggests, “they really enjoy the uniqueness of our dishes.  We provide food that many people won’t make at home, and it’s something our customers really enjoy”. Christine suggests that many of their clientele are looking for local food options; “there are numerous people in Smithers who support local food, and because we support local food, they support us.” She adds that, “many of our customers enjoy the farmers’ market, but they want more.”

Janet and Christine use local products in their menu, when in season. This week, they purchased bread from Meg at Rustica Bakery, and shopped at the Bulkley Valley Farmers’ Market early Saturday morning to stock up on local vegetables for a wedding they are catering later that day.

Janet admits there are challenges when buying local, “it’s not only the availability of the vegetables but also the variety of different and unique vegetables from rainbow beets to purple carrots”.  The sisters are looking forward to establishing even more relationships with local growers to start providing unique vegetables for their dishes.

The Two Sisters have big plans for the New Year, including opening the doors of their new bistro &  café in early 2012.  They are currently immersed in renovating the space and purchasing all the equipment for what will be Smithers’ newest eatery.

In addition to providing healthy local food for customers, Christine and Janet also hope to provide some menu items for their gluten-free patrons. They plan to make use of the bistro space for community and special functions by hosting cooking classes for public and private dinner parties using guest chefs from the North.  For private functions, a group of up to 30 patrons can pre-order from a select menu and wine list and enjoy dinner in an intimate setting.

Janet and Christine hope that many will take advantage of the unique opportunity to mingle with other food lovers from the area while being treated to a meal from talented chefs they normally would not have access to.

 

Two Sisters Catering

(250) 847-1706

(250) 847-2644

Smithers, BC

info@twosisterscating.com

www.twosisterscatering.ca

Two Sisters on Facebook

 

September Profile: BC Historic Café

Tera Brooks and Brad Wilson purchased the Historic BC Café in Hazelton, BC from the Chan family in November 2010 and opened their doors to their first customer in February of 2011.

As the name would suggest, there is a rich history to the Café.  Originally built in 1920, the Café has operated as both a hotel and brothel and has twice burned to the ground.  Today, under the new owners you can still feel that history when you walk through the café doors.

The Historic BC Café is a quaint combination of historical charm coupled with modern technology. New equipment and counters add polish to the building.

Tera and Brad admit there are many challenges to owning a restaurant in the North; suppliers are few and far between and you have to manage your relationships with them carefully.  When there are only one or two suppliers to choose from, it can be very costly and frustrating when you get poor service.  In 2010, Tera and Brad had to close the café twice because propane deliveries were cancelled without notice in -22C° weather.

Now, with their first year nearly behind them, things are running smoothly at the Café.

Local food has been an extremely important addition to their menu.  In a town where excitement comes in small doses, the Historic BC Café has created a new menu to add more variety and “change things up”.

“When using local food in the menu, you help build a self-sustaining community” says Brad, “It just makes sense”.

One of the most well-received menu specials at the Café is the food taste tests.  Brad will prepare dishes with a combination of local and imported foods and allow customers to sample the difference. He says customers like to participate in their food buying decisions, and they feel involved in the Café.  It may come as no surprise that in the taste test menu, local food always wins.

Running a restaurant in a town without a recycling depot is also challenging.  Everything purchased comes in cardboard, but Brad and Tera do the best they can.  Recycling is hauled Terrace or Smithers when they make a trip, and the Café supplies biodegradable take-out containers and utensils.

Modern thinking, combined with the history of Old Hazelton, ensures that the Historic BC Café is a frequented stop for visitors and long time customers alike.

The Historic BC Café

(250) 842-5775

1630 Omineca St.

Hazelton, BC

info@bccafe.ca

June Profile: Sassafras Savouries Café and Catering

When it comes to serving fresh, healthy, local food dishes in the north, Sassafras Savouries chef and owner April Ottesen has a wealth of experience to share.

April was raised in northern BC, and food was always at the centre of her family relationships. She remembers raising livestock and honey bees, and recounts tales of her grandmother working at a Prince George restaurant in the 1940’s at a time when most of the food in the city still came from farms within the region.

Sassafras Savouries began as a small catering company in 2000 with start-up support from Community Futures. The company was founded on the principles of supporting local and organic farmers, showcasing fresh and healthy ingredients, and making the consumer connection to the value of local food through menu items. Sassafras Savouries began its catering operations out of the YAP (Youth Around Prince George) Centre facilities in exchange for April’s support of programs at the Centre. Over time, Sassafras’s loyal catering

customer base grew, and after celebrating her 10th anniversary in business, April opened the Sassafras Savouries Café at its new location at 7th Ave. and Brunswick St. in Prince George.

The customers at the restaurant are diverse but always discerning and the catering customers are predominantly health care professionals. This comes as no surprise to April, whose healthy menu items have great appeal to customers who have a health mandate entrenched in their daily operations.

April recognizes the value of her loyal customer base and often gives back to the communities that support her. Recently she developed 12 recipes for the BC Farm to School Salad Bar program, which aims to supply healthy meals in school cafeterias by connecting with local farms. Opening the new restaurant, in addition to her catering business and community involvement, has April working around the clock. She has hired several new employees to help prepare the labour-intensive, made-from-scratch menu items. She also spends her time visiting farms in the area to purchase fresh local products, rather than relying on deliveries from conventional food suppliers.

Despite the extra care that goes into Sassafras’s menu items, prices remain low, and many customers recognize that the value of their food is much more than they are paying. When asked why April hasn’t raised her prices, she says, “I just haven’t had the time!”

While the days may be long and the profits modest, April’s work ethic is driven by her passion for real food and her desire to change people’s attitudes towards whatthey eat. She firmly believes a restaurant is a great vehicle for those changes.

While the workload may appear daunting, April’s advice to other chefs, both in the home and the business, is to start somewhere, even with just one thing: one relationship with a local producer or one type of vegetable you grow at home.

Before you know it, your attitude will have changed, and you will scarcely notice the extra effort, if any, required to serve a better food product.

Sassafras Savouries Café and Catering

(250) 963-9941

693 Brunswick St.

Prince George, BC

sassafras.savouries@telus.net

May Profile: The Thirsty Moose

Composting, recycling, and local purchasing are not practices you’d expect to see in a northern BC pub, but that’s exactly what’s happening at UNBC’s Thirsty Moose under the direction of Food & Beverage Manager, Kyle McIntosh.

Born and raised in Prince George, Kyle began his food service career at age 19, washing dishes, and has since worked in several prestigious Vancouver and Calgary restaurants, including one of Canada’s top-10 bistros.

With his experience, Kyle had many career options, but when the opportunity to move back to Prince George to be closer to family came along, he took it. The NUSC food services operations opened their doors in June 2008, and Kyle has been the Food & Beverage Manager since.

In his previous employment, Kyle had been responsible for visiting and working directly with various local farmers and food markets. It was this personal connection – meeting with food purveyors and learning their stories – that sparked his appreciation for good food.

Kyle says the local food movement started out as a trendy thing, as if “we’re chefs, look at what we can do,” but it got people thinking, and now it’s more like “we are chefs, and this what we should do.”

Now, the local food and sustainability movement is coming to UNBC.

The Northern Undergraduate Student Centre, NUSC, is the business arm of the UNBC student union, run “by the students, for the students.” It houses two food service operations: the Thirsty Moose Pub and Degrees Coffee Co. Prices are kept low to accommodate student budgets, and revenue generated from these operations goes back to support student activities.

The Thirsty Moose Pub caters to an entirely different crowd than the high-end urban bistros of Kyle’s past. University staff and faculty patron the pub during the lunch hour and students tend to dominate the evening hours with low-cost food and beverage options. Speed of service and value are essential to the business.

Despite the fast and cheap demands of Thirsty Moose customers, efforts to incorporate local and sustainable food choices in the pub menu have been very well-received.

During the inaugural University Farmers Market held this past February, sandwiches and salads made with local greens were served as take-out items from the Grab-and-Go outlet. Bison burgers with fries made from potatoes from Gerry Visser’s farm were served in the pub. The one-time event was a huge success, selling out of food before the day was over. Now, Kyle is planning to move to a full BC-based product menu at the start of the newschool year in the Fall.

Meanwhile, the Thirsty Moose continues to compost all food waste at the PGPIRG compost gardens, serve take-out food with biodegradable containers and cutlery, and use a full line of natural cleaning and sanitizing products. Kyle says improving the environmental footprint of the pub while keeping costs low is a challenge, but it is also a necessity for the future.

Kyle adds that the old-school “meat and potatoes” attitude of the north could be seen as hindrance to the progressive local foods movement, but in reality, it is a compliment.

Meat and potatoes are some of the foods the northern region grows best, and a return to our roots and connection with the land is really what the local foods movement is all about.

The Thirsty Moose

(250) 960-6023

3333 University Way

Prince George, BC

nugss.unbc.ca/nusc