Edible Vancouver Island January/February 2024

To be a Chef in Paradise For more info on chefs in Parksville Qualicum Beach, scan the code Chefs in Parksville Qualicum Beach don’t take the region’s beauty or bounty for granted

Surrounded by verdant forest and vast ocean views, the chefs of Parksville Qualicum Beach find themselves immersed in a region of natural beauty that not only captivates the eye but also supplies an abundance of local ingredients. With easy access to fresh produce, seafood and artisanal products, their culinary visions are nurtured by the region's plentiful resources. The area's growth as a culinary destination amplifies their creative drive, providing a platform to showcase their menus to locals and tourists alike. Beyond the professional landscape, the warmth and familiarity of the community make this region more than just a workplace– it becomes a place they are proud to call home, a sentiment that infuses an extra layer of passion into every dish they create. Chef Todd Bright of Nanoose Bay Café has been cooking for 24 years, his career in the kitchen bringing him to Vancouver Island in January 2021 to open the Qualicum Beach Café. One of the biggest things he’s noticed since settling into his life here is the more sustainable work-life balance that exists on the island. “Being in this kind of community that I’m not stuck in the restaurant till two in the morning–that’s really nice,” he notes. He also loves the close connection he makes with his restaurant suppliers–like the fish he gets from the local fishermen or the chicken straight from the abattoir. Forming those intimate bonds and connections with producers, and finding out what inspires them to do what they do, is a big part of how he translates ingredients into a rich menu. “I really like that food can tell a story,” he explains. “From the boat to my restaurant–sI can name the fisherman for you. Same with some of our microgreens grown down in Cobble Hill; it’s a lovely family that have been doing it for years and years. Anything I want or am interested in, I just have to ask and they’ll grow a small sample.” The ability to form close relationships with local suppliers is something Michelle Yasinski of Crown Mansion is thankful for every day. “Being on Vancouver Island and having all these wonderfulmarkets and vendors and everything at our fingertips… I’m overwhelmed by it sometimes, how we’re very, very lucky here,” she says. “I love where I live.” Through collaboration, innovation and a pure love for the region, Yasinski and other chefs in the region are not only crafting exceptional menus, but also etching their stories into the very essence of this coastal haven. And it’s a haven too beautiful to keep secret. Yasinski firmly believes in sharing her love for Parksville Qualicum Beach with others. “It’s my home, and when people come here, I want them to feel like they’re at home,” she explains. That feeling of welcoming hospitality is one she strives to create at her restaurant.

Yasinski describes the dining establishment’s ambiance as one of “casual elegance,” a term brought to her by one of her guests. “They felt like they could come here to this beautiful, elegant place, but feel like they’re coming into my home and being welcomed… where they can be themselves.” Eric Edwards of Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort & Conference Centre also enjoys sharing his love of the region to people who choose Parksville Qualicum Beach as their vacation destination, because he loves being able to offer a menu that carefully marries local island products with international flavours. “We can really have a lot of fun with it,” he says. The resort hosts a lot of weddings as well, and he thrives on being a part of the bride and groom’s perfect day by creating a meal that meets and exceeds all their expectations. “I just love it every day…the joy that you give to so many people,” he says. He also notes that it’s inspiring to work in a region with other chefs as excited about the industry as you are, because it fosters an environment conducive to culinary innovation. “Having the culinary scene (here) changing over the years, I think we've got a lot of different restaurants and hotels that are just bringing up their game. And it's really exciting to see,” Edwards says. Kevin Munroe from Q Burger certainly qualifies as one of the many passionate chefs in the region who is elevating the culinary standards in the region. His love for the island is something he was practically born with. “I’m born and raised here on Vancouver Island. I will never leave; I love it here so much,”he says proudly.“It’s the best place on earth.” And as a chef, there’s nowhere he’d rather work. “I love the abundance of what this island can offer,” he explains. From foraging for berries or harvesting clams and oysters on the beach, the plentiful variety of local, easily accessible ingredients make the region a chef’s dream location to both live and work. It's clear that the chefs of this region are not just cooks; they are storytellers weaving tales of connection and community through each dish. By fostering relationships with local suppliers, they transform ingredients into narratives that celebrate heritage, tradition and growth. As the aroma of carefully prepared meals wafts through the air, it whispers a message of homecoming, inviting both residents and visitors to share in the love of place that is filled in equal measure with vibrant community, abundant nature and inspiring creativity.



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