Wordsmith Support-A few articles for your reading pleasure!

Lionel came in and took a few photos on behalf of The Oliver Chronicle. After we had a chat of my kid-foodie “experiment”, he went and interviewed a few of the kids who eat the salad bar weekly. Thanks Lionel!


Students put their veggie trust in young chef

Posted by: Posted date: March 13, 2014 In: Featured | comment : 0

Students wait patiently to dive in to Chris Van Hooydonk’s salad bar, which has garnered rave reviews at Tuc-el-Nuit Elementary School.                                  Lyonel Doherty photo

Students wait patiently to dive in to Chris Van Hooydonk’s salad bar, which has garnered rave reviews at Tuc-el-Nuit Elementary School.
Lyonel Doherty photo

If you can’t get your kids to eat their veggies, just send them to Chris Van Hooydonk – he’ll have them eating their parsnips and squash in no time.

The Oliver chef from Artisan Culinary Concepts has taken the salad bar program at Tuc-el-Nuit school by storm, winning the hearts and tummies of many children.

It’s not uncommon for pupils to come up and hug his leg or give him a high-five after filling up on vegetables. In fact, they totally trust his judgment.

“My daughter told me that she trusts anything that Chris puts in front of her,” said envious parent Benita Baerg.

Her six year old is as picky as any other kid when it comes to food.

“I was pretty sure there was no way she’d try his bison burger turnovers, but she went back for seconds.”

Now Baerg’s daughter is asking her to make mac and cheese the way Hooydonk makes it, complete with cauliflower, squash and parsnips.

Hooydonk isn’t re-inventing the wheel; he’s merely experimenting with how to present healthy food to children.

“It’s all about presentation,” he said, noting you have to keep it simple.

Hooydonk uses different textures and colours to entice kids to eat what’s good for them.

“I’m introducing new foods that they’ve never tried before . . . and seeing what the kids like.”

The chef believes the students don’t need to know that there’s parsnips in the macaroni and cheese or bell peppers in the spaghetti sauce.

Hooydonk also believes that parents should not go out of their way to make a different meal if their child doesn’t like the one already prepared.

He stated the importance of introducing a variety of foods for children to choose from.

For example, try olives.

“I never thought these kids would eat so many olives. They just inhale them.”

Hooydonk also brings in heirloom carrots, which come in different colours that the kids can’t get enough of.

The chef takes great pride in knowing that he’s making a big difference in children’s lives at school and at home.

He’s hoping that the kids will get into the habit of choosing these healthy foods over pizza or hot dogs. And in 10 year’s time, he’s hoping to see these same children bringing healthy foods to their own communities.

Student Lexi Nice said she finds it fun to eat a variety of foods that Hooydonk offers.

“My favourite is the white carrots. It’s like a secret surprise.”

Fellow student Madison Boen-Shekula like’s the different shaped foods on the menu. Her favourite is the purple potato salad.

Kyton MacFadden said he likes the different flavours and variety. His favourite is the pulled pork and potato salad.

“I eat more veggies here than I do at home.”

MacFadden said he wants to know how the chef manages to get all those different colours on the menu.

Classmate Justice Baptiste said it’s important to have this lunch program for the students because some parents simply can’t afford to buy expensive lunches for their kids.

Baptiste said he’s never tried purple potato salad before.

Being an athlete, he needs all the nutrition he can get, Baptiste admitted.

The boy noted that he loves Brussels sprouts, but can’t stand stuffing.

Fellow student Stephanie Matevia said she likes the fact they can choose what they want to eat as opposed to someone “plopping” food on their plate.

Matevia said she feels a lot better after eating lunch.

“I’m a horseback rider, so I have to stay in shape.”

Lyonel Doherty

Oliver Chronicle


And check out this amazing article from our friend Tarryn Liv Parker, the artful and inspiring mind behind “The Field Guide”. She is helping locals and visitors alike become more aware of the limitless food and wine culture in the Okanagan. She came out and had a chat, with a bit of a visionary tour on the new project. Check out her glorious website at www.thefieldguide.ca.

Chef Van Hooydonk’s Backyard Farm is a Chef’s Dream
Okanagan // South Okanagan // Oliver
Date: March 13, 2014. 00:00
Renovations underway at Chef Chris and Mikkel’s new project – Backyard Farms 

Hopefully in each artist and artisans life that striving artist awakens to the lucid moment of awareness when the light switch goes off, the heart and eyes open wide, to just what it is they are doing. The intuitive interest in the craft turns to passionate awareness.  It’s the one moment they can’t turn backwards from. The artist connects with the spirit of their craft and medium. In the case of this artist’s tale, it is about a chef’s path, his job to nourish bodies and contribute to one of the single most important cornerstones of our everyday lives – food – it’s economics and ethics, its cultural, family and community roots. The sensory delights of a well balanced and elegant meal are still paramount, but sit equally at the top with the other factors of “good, fair, local and clean”. All those parts of a “food experience” are soundly built when planted on a solid foundation that honours all these aspects.

This kind of epiphany was had by Chef Chris Van Hooydonk. After around a decade of corporate chef life, he couldn’t dance around his “moment” – the one he couldn’t turn his back to any longer… so he left corporate life with some ideas, and a couple of leads… nothing certain. Just a big wide open heart and eyes. The rest of the hospitality community sighed, “What will he do?”. His wife Mikkel could see and feel that a great family life such as they envisioned wasn’t a possibility at the rate they were going either. Both felt ready to take a giant leap in to the unknown…
Van Hooydonk and his wife and business partner Mikkel Day own a house ideally situated on The Golden Mile in Oliver BC where their businesses Artisan Culinary Concepts and Backyard Farms are also located. They have been restoring their small orchard, preserving heritage fruit trees, (from which I ate a luscious 2 lb peach from last summer) and planting gardens around the couple of acres they have got. They make their Backyard Farms products… my favourite hot sauce, peach chutney, barbecue sauce, all kinds of preserves…  It is magic. Chef Chris built an incredible commercial kitchen in the basement of their farmhouse, where he can produce all the foods fit for the valley’s largest and finest culinary events.
While Chris is in the kitchen Mikkel is out in the garden, growing what is to become their Backyard Farm products (that is between, before and after her serving shifts at Burrowing Owl and helping manage her Aunts Osoyoos clothing store, California Day) They happily work their  ***** off to make this dream real.
But last year another opportunity came. The original “settlers” of the neighbouring house set in amongst the orchard surrounds decided they were ready to sell. With a little help from their family, Chris and Mikkel were able to put their resources together to obtain the adjoining property and truly expand their vision to the full picture of an integrated culinary/life model they were seeking to create.
This new neighbouring house is currently transforming in to a “Place for a Food Experience”. I don’t want to call it a cooking school. I’d say it’s that and more… Groups can come and participate in the cooking and food prep, while learning, enjoying the property, and helping in the garden. Van Hooydonk and Day’s vision is to give people an opportunity for a real connection with their nourishment, learning where it comes from, how it gets on the plate, and perhaps gaining a true insight in to the importance of real, good, sustainable, local and seasonal food.
The renovation at Backyard Farms is complete in May and they are already taking bookings. We look forward to some very special TFG bookings there soon. We will have a follow-up story to post on how the renos are going in May!
They will eventually have a couple of rooms for overnight stays when they are ready to start their “B&D”. No, not Bed and Breakfast, Bed and Dinner.
To learn more about Chef Van Hooydonk and to book, visit artisanculinaryconcepts.com
By Tarynn Liv Parker
PS… a few articles I enjoyed in the kitchen last week, and a couple shots from last summer (July 2013)
the good smoke
One of Chris’ various bread starters
these lovely organic over-wintered carrots had to snuggle close
Mikkel, resident picker, safe from the bees, but not Chris…
Peaches, glorious peaches
And today, an article was posted on “Eat Magazine Online”. Another inspiring writer has helped us share our vision with her wordsmith ways…. Jeanette Montgomery was hanging out in my chef cave while I butchered a beautiful lamb. It was a prime opportunity to talk about our mutual love of all things encompassing food, wine, farming and local. She too lives in Oliver, and has used her writing abilities to share our vision, taking my passion and putting it into words. Check out www.eatmagazine.ca for more articles representing food and wine culture . Thanks Jeanette!!!!
Written By First Look / Okanagan / Places Apr 25, 2014

Table for 20

Butter does make everything better

Chris Van Hooydonk goes less executive, more chef.

Standing at the counter of a (temporary) commercial kitchen in the basement of his rural Oliver home, chef Chris Van Hooydonk methodically explains how to butcher a lamb. “I like to de-bone it, to get the most use of the meat”, he says as he navigates the ribcage with certainty and deference, “it’s about respecting the animal.”

This scene is miles away from how Van Hooydonk was working two years ago. In 2013, Van Hooydonk quit his job as executive chef at an Okanagan winery restaurant to fly solo. After three busy seasons of catering, this year he will open a 20-seat private dining room. It’s not a move many on the culinary ladder would make: while the area’s food scene might be growing, full-time opportunities for a skilled chef are a challenge to land in what remains a largely seasonal gig. But if we redefine what a culinary experience means, that seasonality argument heads for the door.

Raw wood edging for the shelf adds a natural touch
Chef's kitchen-eye-view-2
A full renovated mid-century split-level gets a new lease on life

“I’ve never been so busy”, says Van Hooydonk. “I’m hiring a sous-chef for the summer, but could use one right now.” It seems there’s a year-round appetite for what Van Hooydonk’s cooking, and the expansion to a learning-focused dining room and kitchen can’t come soon enough.

Artisan Culinary Concepts offers an a la carte menu: consulting, education, cooking classes, private chef services, catering, and handcrafted preserves are available under the Backyard Farms label. Recently, Van Hooydonk’s wife and partner Mikkel quit her job and joined the venture full-time. What busy means for Chris today is radically different from that of his former executive career. “I almost couldn’t recognize myself”, says Van Hooydonk. He was working full-tilt seasonally and dropping from exhaustion during winter months. “I like cooking for people, showing them what it is to really enjoy food.” The feast-or-famine model wasn’t conducive to what he wanted to do.

For Van Hooydonk, the new kitchen-as-dining-space (maximum 20 people) is an ideal way to share his love of food. “From the dining room, it’s like the kitchen is a giant high-definition television screen”, Van Hooydonk says with a laugh. “The ultimate reality show.” The site is a former split-level, mid-century home with vaulted ceilings, and the renovation has resulted in an open concept dining room/kitchen that is both intimate and airy. Set in a 60-year-old orchard overlooking the south Okanagan valley, you can’t get a more authentic sense of place than this.

An impromptu snack - of lamb

Preparing an impromptu snack – of lamb

The current pace Van Hooydonk has is fast but it’s on his terms and in a manner that better fits his food philosophy. Moreover, he’s attracting a like-minded set of clients and producers. There’s a notable absence of large scale anything, including delivery trucks; chef has close relationships with a handful of producers who provide organic products and hormone-free local meats. In a time when marketing people use the terms local and slow food as hooks, Van Hooydonk lives the talk. “I don’t like to call it slow food”, he says. “For me, it’s just food.”

On my last visit, Chris guided me through some of what remains on the to-do list before opening in May: painting (inside and out), lighting, more painting, flooring, cleaning, and replacing the carved, solid wood front door with something more contemporary. “I think I’ll reuse the door as an outdoor table”, Van Hooydonk muses aloud. “It’s beautifully carved wood.” Waste not; want not.

De-boned lamb ready for use

De-boned lamb ready for use

As opening day looms, Chris balances renovating with fulfilling ongoing catering orders, upcoming weddings, and creating kid-friendly dishes for a weekly lunch program at Tul-el-Nuit elementary school. The latter is something he’s worked on in partnership with the local school district this school year, and it seems as much fun for him as it is for the kids. “I’m the young, cool chef with spiky hair and earrings”, he says with a mischievous grin, “I can get the kids to eat all kinds of things.” Parents see their kids getting excited about food, leading to parent/child cooking sessions. “They’re our next generation of farmers and chefs.”

Whet your appetite for local: follow the Artisan Culinary Concepts and Backyard Farms journey on Van Hooydonk’s blog.


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  • Written By:

    Jeannette is EAT’s Okanagan writer. With her rural Canadian roots and love of grand experiences, Jeannette is equal measures country and city. Since moving from Vancouver to the Okanagan in 2007, she quit her day job …


    I am incredibly humbled by the support for our newest culinary venture! To have such talented writers take an interest in our business, especially as the “little guys”, is a huge testament to the evolution of food and wine culture in our region. The most satisfying part is the recognition for just doing what I love, the way I love to do it-and from our favorite of all places, our home. Looking forward to sharing my passion for food, and offering an intimate, exclusive and engaging culinary experience and telling the story behind the food-from our “Backyard Farm”.