A 2 Pound Peach- The year in review.

Pretty much sums it up-our largest homegrown peach of 2013. Peaches this size are always good for a chuckle, a few high fives and something delicious after a few snapshots. It is the culmination of many efforts toward mowing, feeding, watering, pruning, thinning, picking, sorting-this peach was a worthy reward for showing respecting and appreciating the ability to grow our own peaches. And so we turn the page of the year of development and launch, and start planning for the evolving possibilities to share our love of food, wine and living in the Okanagan.

 

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It has been a great time for reflecting on the first season of business. The generous amount of support we have received from our family, friends, clients and community has truly been a huge source of inspiration. Making the decision to branch out on your own is not an easy one, but the ability to take control of my own career destiny made the foreseen risks fade into the background. Yes, we picked a 2 pound peach, the biggest of the year, and I compare 2013 to this peach, as I felt the same way watching it grow until we picked it, and enjoyed the fruits of our labour. Ambition surely played its role, but at the end of the day my desire to follow my chef dream became priority. It was January 1st, 2013-the first day of development. I certainly didn’t expect Mikkel to agree so easily that I should take over 30% of our orchard home, and dedicate it to building a Foodsafe and Interior Health inspected kitchen. And it was this decision that got this ball rolling-for her it was more important to see me smile everyday, knowing that I would work hard enough to make this happen, and that was all she needed. I am so incredibly lucky to have such a supportive wife……. So I went ahead, and submitted my commercial kitchen design January 2nd, and was approved on the 4th. This was the beginning of the most fulfilling season of my career. Along the way, a wealth of opportunities came to fruition and here are some which hold most significance to the inspiration behind Artisan Culinary Concepts thus far……

-This Website!! Meeting with Lionel Trudel (of Trudel Photography and Archer Media Management) led us to develop this website. All I wanted was a true portrayal of me, my life, my career, my love of food and living in the Okanagan. Using photos taken by him, taking my vision and having it come to fruition was made a priority by him. He offered his mentorship into managing the site and social media on my own accord, items in which I have little patience for, although I understand the importance of them in business development. We have become fast friends, and he helped me develop much of the current media presence, and we enjoy comparing carnivore notes on a regular basis.

- Acceptance into the Community Futures and Self Employment Program. What an unbelievable opportunity for in depth mentorship in business plan development. I was accepted, and regardless of the outcome, I considered it a win-win situation. Karen Chamberlain helped me develop my 90 page business plan, and recognize some of the business development items I had not considered as much as I needed. Invaluable for sure, and a program focused on developing small business in our community-which is a very large part of our infrastructure. I credit a large part of my successes and learning experiences on Karen and Community futures, and look forward to lasting communication and feedback from Karen and a few mentors I have acquired along the way. Subsequently, my business plan was approved and I managed to secure a grant as support for the first year of operation, as well as some start up financing to alleviate the pressure of the unforeseen……..

-As I began building the kitchen, while attending the CF course, I seemingly had a few horseshoes around in regards to the construction and equipment sourcing. Talk about savings-I managed to build a fully functional commercial kitchen space for a quarter of the cost it should have been. No question, time was on my side-I had months to look for the right equipment, but I had some help come my way… Len McLean built the wall and door-a very generous gesture and a deal like no other, big thanks. Chef B helped me move the 600 pound beast of an oven in, after getting it out of the back of the truck, plus a huge offering of plates and platters, cambro hot boxes(lifesaving, seriously) that I used all summer long. Those contributions were generous, but are overshadowed by the culinary experience Chef B taught me through the years and a lended ear to offer advice or listen whenever I needed. Corey, form Keldon Electric came and installed Beatrice the giant convection oven, and did a little electrical love for me. Not only us he a great electrician, but also a heavy metal loving gentleman as well. My other big thanks goes out to Jay form Mavco for saving my bacon in September-installing my 8X6 ft Walk in fridge going just before the craziness of my busiest month ensued-he was here at 8:30 at night getting that baby going, and I do not dare to think how sketchy it would have been with the amount of local ingredients flying through this kitchen that month…I would have been very strapped for space, to put it lightly. He also found me a wicked price on my mixer……yes I owe him a date night for him and his wife this spring. June first, business launched, due in part to the help of these awesome people-but the season ramped up and my weekend catering partner in crime was my apprenticeship mentor Jim Armstrong. I feared him as an apprentice, he was just a little too quiet sometimes-just had to wonder what he was thinking… I achieved top standing in my apprenticeship due to his training and guidance in my first fine dining kitchen, paired with exposure to banquets. He is one of the instructors training the up and coming talent in the culinary program at Okanagan University, on his time off last summer, at least 1 day a week of it was spent cooking with me. Had a ton of fun cooking with him, we have been friends since -I went cruise shipping, he introduced me to Chef B, and gave me the tools of knowledge and ability in the 4 years we worked together at The Harvest. If it wasn’t for him this past summer, I would have missed out on a few good laughs, some frosty beverages and for certain the weddings would have been much more challenging-we certainly practice “chef speak”-minimal communication needed from a mutual understanding of our individual culinary style. I wrote a menu, and we just cooked free hand-the result was great food we were both proud to stand behind-every single time. Hope to see him back next season, we already poured a concrete pad for his trailer…….Dom my prep and pack sidekick was awesome, not to mention the service staff!!!! With the unforeseen business volumes, we were fortunate to have Rachelle and a few other fantastic servers willing to come help us out on rather short notice-I am very proud of the service we provided for each and every event!

-On a sad note, my Grandmother Eunice Brooks passed away this summer. She will be missed dearly,and I am so very grateful for my childhood- her and Grandpa played a huge role in the man I have become. I trust she has joined Ollie wherever he may be, as she missed him greatly since his passing 4 years ago. I wish they could have seen our place, but I am glad I  had the chance to share my plans with her. She cooked fresh meals for family often, and a lot of my inspiration to become a chef stemmed from her emphasis on family inspired meals. She was the matriarch of our family, and she was proud of everyone. Mikkel and I travelled to Edmonton in October to say our goodbyes, and the memorial gave our family an opportunity to get together and share stories on the impact grandma had in all of our lives. Not one day goes by that I don’t think of Gramdma and Grandpa, and the role they played in my life……..

- Our family has always been behind us-proud of our accomplishments, and happy to help whenever they can. My mother and Wayne did dishes while they visited, labelled hotsauce as it flew out the door, and helped us clean up the gardens and pick fruit. Deb, Chris, Raf and Michael helped us discover the healthy amount of packrats using the shop as an amusement park and brothel, and move mountains of inherited property maintenance needs, rock wall building, stump pulling,…To say we feel fortunate would be an understatement,and we will always be thankful for the working vacations of our entire family. When you operate your own business in the Okanagan, the summer doesn’t really include days off-but our families find joy in working with us, its just what we do. We are seriously humbled for the amount of effort our family puts forth without ever being asked. With this said, the acre of property below us came up for sale, and some family decided to invest in our vision. July 15th was the day we got the keys to another acre of heritage orchard trees, another house, shop and a piece of South Okanagan history. The  property was owned by Pete and Alice Vanjoff, not only did their livelihood come from this land, but they raised their family here as well. After 57 years of living on the property, it was time for them to move closer to their family. Simply amazing watching Pete in the orchard at 80+ years old, still pruning his trees, thinning and picking. It was just what he loved more than anything, and although we were sad to see them go, our long time dream was to develop an opportunity in which we could preserve the history of this property while sharing our love of food in a very intimate and engaging setting-set amongst sprawling vineyard, and surrounded by cherry, plum, peach, apricot, nectarine, hazelnut, walnut trees and an expanding wealth of raised bed gardens. Our goal was to strive to become as close to self sustained as possible, and building a larger, fully commercial kitchen able to host private cooking classes, demos and seminars. In addition to this, we decided to enable a private chef experience for up to 20 guests with a full view of the kitchen goings on, with the ability to bring your own wine and being offered a tailored menu with local food to compliment the wines chosen to enjoy. Restaurant-no,instead a private dining room allowing us to invite up to 20 people over for dinner so to speak, for a dining experience we feel would be like no other in the area. I decided to pursue this goal a bit sooner than anticipated, seems as though the winter is a good time for development, so the renos began shortly after the new year. Here are some pics of the latest efforts by Ton and I:

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It is a bit hard to visualize from the photos, but we made fast work of the demolition, roughly 2 days of work, and the kitchen and seating areas are barren and ready for a facelift. In order to launch by our anticipated date of June 1st, we decided to get a good jump on it. Keeping within our modest budget is the priority, as it will define our launch date being achieved. I have decided to do as much of the work as I can, and a generous donation of time and knowledge, not to mention construction experience from Ton Joosten (another proud Dutchman,a prior client, now friend and mentor of sorts)has been incredibly motivating. Ton is apparently having fun helping me out, and really believes in my vision, and for that I will be always grateful. You can see him sitting on the reclaimed brick fireplace, bricks were relocated from the homestead in which Pete Vanjoff was born and raised in Grand Forks-part of the story of this exciting new endeavor…………

-As a proud South Okanagan local, I have strived to be as community minded as time allows after starting my independently owned business. It is important for us to support the wealth of great causes by offering silent auction donations for private cooking classes or Chef Services. In the first season of operation, I participated in many local food and wine events, to help showcase the bounty of our area. . I am hoping with increased sales and bookings, my involvement in local charities and events will continue to grow, but a most exciting opportunity has come across my prep table at the very end of 2013. I was contacted by the principal of Tuc el Nuit Elementary to see if I may be interested in helping them evolve the 2 day per week salad bar program for the young minds at his school. Not only was I honoured to be asked, but I was elated to hear this was the result from a few parents suggesting he contact me to discuss this opportunity. It certainly wasn’t much to consider, as I believe healthy eating starts with the children of our community, and learning in school is easier on a full tummy. I am excited to cook some fun, healthy food for the kids . After our preliminary discussion, I reached out to my friend Jeff Vangeest(dad of 2 little ones, and local chef) for some thoughts on the program-subsequently he has decided he would like to help out. In addition to Jeff, Doug my farming friend and owner of Fester’s Peppers grows wonderful Organic produce and has generously offered  to donate some produce towards the cause. A few extra hands gives us the ability to do more with the modest budget available plus Jeff and I figure a little time together in the chefcave is always sure to be a great time….  We are thrilled elementary schools offer this program, and hope our contribution will get kids,teachers and parents even more excited about local farming, cooking and eating!  If anyone may be interested in helping out, or for additional details contact me: chris@artisanculinaryconcepts.com

In the 2013 season, it was these opportunities and many more that allowed me to do what I love to do on my terms. It was a very busy year from start to launch, and a wealth of fantastic clients helped carve a path towards the next adventure. We look forward to what the future has in store for Artisan Culinary Concepts, realizing that your future is what you make it-the risk has led to great reward. Thanks for keeping tabs on the progression of things, I shall keep you posted during the process!

Me and Mikk