A stay in Comox Valley, Vancouver Island would feel black and white, gray even, without dining out at least one meal – if not daily – at Locals Restaurant in Courtenay. Where the colors of nature greet you at every turn, this is a Valley bursting with vibrancy. If there’s one thing nature loves, it’s color: The eye-popping yellows and purples of Spring flowers, the deep greens of leafy vegetables, the dark reds of vine-ripened tomatoes, even the fleshy pinks of fresh salmon.
Comox Valley’s Pride And Joy
“Locals – Food From The Heart of the Island” is the pride and joy of Chef Ronald St. Pierre who, with his wife, have created a dining experience that represents the culinary best of Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley. To walk through Locals’ doors is like walking into an Island Chefs Collaborative Farmers Market turned restaurant.
The exterior is humble enough. In fact, the praises that were sung about the restaurant and Chef St. Pierre, his philosophy and his passion for fresh, local ingredients did not prepare me for finding the restaurant to be the cornerstone in a Courtenay strip mall. As a first-time visitor to the Island, at every turn I was struck by the quaintness and charm of old farms, wooden buildings, even Courtenay itself is a picturesque little town entirely walkable with cheerful cafes and shops that line 5th Street, its downtown core and the center of Comox Valley. But now I know why people had failed to mention the restaurant’s exterior – once you’ve eaten there, what’s outside doesn’t matter. The restaurant’s interior is tastefully appointed, with a second room that has large booths for a private dining experience. But truly, the only thing you remember is how good the food is!
Chef Roland St. Pierre is a pioneer in translating “locavorism” into the driving philosophy behind a successful restaurant. Mind you, on Vancouver Island, locavorism is the common mind-set and to do otherwise is, well, frankly absurd. The Comox Valley especially is an abundant bread, fruit, cheese, meat and seafood basket. It could easily be named “Valley of Plenty” so abundant is all the fresh quality fare within arm’s reach. The Locals’ website explains their philosophy and reasoning, such as, “Buying habits are shifting with ‘food currently tied with health as our 4th top spending priority.’” It’s definitely worth reading if you at all consider yourself a foodie. Or a greenie.
So Chef Roland and his wife got to talking with local farmers and growers and saw what could be directly sourced for their table. They create their seasonal menus around the ingredients available. Pattison Farms, for example, supplies their fresh greens such as baby spinach, heirloom tomatoes and spicy mustard greens. Beaufort Vineyards supplies them with wine, as do other local vineyards like Chase & Warren Estate Winery and Cabrea Vineyard & Winery as well as the many vineyards just a bit south in the Cowichan Valley.
As part decoration and as part tribute, Chef St. Pierre hangs his walls with portraits of the farm-to-table suppliers he sources his fresh, local ingredients from. If you are keen to do a tour of the Valley’s prime growers for ingredients ranging from pork to duck, tomatoes to broccoli florets, goat cheese to mussels to ancient method balsamic vinegars, take a look at Locals’ walls, jot down the names and then work your way down the “wall.” With this itinerary, curated by Locals’ Restaurateurs Chef and Mrs. St. Pierre, you are guaranteed to enjoy a thoroughly fresh and authentic introduction to some of the Island’s star growers and local farmers.
Local’s Market Sheet Menu
The price points are also exceedingly reasonable. More often than not Locals’ has a Prix-Fixe or Market Sheet menu to order from. Depending on the season, for $35 you can have a seared duck “prosciutto” appetizer, a main-course of Bison (or fresh caught salmon) and a medley of desserts including fresh off-the-farm raspberry mousse. Or you can order a’ la carte from the menu. Either way, you’ll leave exceedingly, freshly satisfied.
Reservations suggested. 384 8th Street Courtenay, BC Canada Reservations 250-338-6493
The Chefs’ Table Society of British Columbia is a chef-administered, province-wide collaborative dedicated to creating a foundation for the exchange of information between culinary professionals. The Society supports innovative and sustainable programs that will inspire, educate and nurture its chefs, producers and the local food industry, all the while promoting standards of excellence with the aim of enhancing the reputation of regional cuisine.
A second helping of recipes celebrating the BC food scene, served up by 70 well-known and emerging chefs. Five years after Vancouver Cooks, which sold more than 13,000 copies, the Chefs’ Table Society returns with over 100 new recipes from 70 chefs around Vancouver, Victoria and the Okanagan.
Divided into four sections: local food, international flavours, emerging talents and pioneering chefs, edited by Joan Cross, Jamie Maw and Andrew Morrison. Vancouver Cooks 2 celebrates the key elements that have forged Vancouver’s unique culinary culture and made the city a world-class dining destination. We also see the industry behind the scenes, understanding its heritage and the innovative strides Vancouver chefs are taking.
Written for the home cook, Vancouver Cooks 2 pairs more than 50 full-colour photographs with the mouthwatering recipes, each with wine notes. Royalties from the sale of this book go to the Chefs’ Table Scholarship and Bursary Fund.
Chef Ned Bell Cooks In Vancouver’s Test Kitchen
March 22 at the new Western Living Test Kitchen at Cookworks on West Broadway sign up for an intimate cooking class with one of B.C.’s top chefs. Watch, learn, taste, interact, and leave with the secrets and skills to recreate their signature dishes at home. Classes run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Presented by Murray Bancroft.
|Chef Ned Bell
Ned Bell is one of Canada’s foremost culinary talents. Born in the Okanagan, British Columbia’s wine country, Bell has always had a passion for cooking and is steadfast in his vision and drive to create new, imaginative dishes with fresh, local ingredients.
Bell began his career in Vancouver working under two local restaurant legends: first under the tutelage of Le Crocodile’s Michel Jacob and then as Sous Chef for Rob Feenie’s Lumiere restaurant.
In 1997 Bell set his sights eastward where he enjoyed successful stints as Executive Chef at Niagara on the Lake’s Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery, and at Toronto’s Accolade and Senses restaurants where he earned significant recognition by the city’s culinary cognoscenti. During his time in Toronto, Bell was a regular on Food Network Canada’s “Cook Like a Chef.”
Ready to make his mark on the up-and-coming Calgary restaurant scene, the new millennium
Wanting to get further engaged in the business side of restaurants, Bell joined the team at Vintage Chophouse and Red Water Grille as Corporate Chef where his passion, knowledge, creativity and focus turned the restaurants into two of Calgary’s most exciting culinary locales.
The vibrant, young chef is thrilled to return to his roots where he is excitedly living his dream of being both Executive Chef and an owner at Cabana Bar and Grille in Kelowna, BC.
Bell’s talent and charisma continue to propel him forward. Since opening Cabana Bar and Grille, Bell has begun filming “It’s Just Food” for CTV, and has been voted one of Western Living’s Top 40 Foodies Under 40
Bell is also lending his good taste to Vancouver Cooks 2.0–a coveted collection of recipes from Vancouver’s best chefs.