Sunset Organic Bistro located at Summerhill Pyramid Winery glitters like a jewel in Kelowna’s culinary scene. Spearheading it’s success is one man: Executive Chef Jesse Croy. Croy started his career at Summerhill working under then-Executive Chef Grant de Montreuil.When (de Montreuil) wanted to go out on his own…he recommended (Croy) because he was the best in the kitchen… He’s creative, young – with a family background that inspires him all the time,” explains Summerhill Proprietor Stephen Cipes. At the interview, Cipes remembers Croy saying “‘I’m flattered Steve, but I don’t want to be Executive Chef. I just want to cook!” The two men start laughing as Cipes continues, “We had to make a decision. Did we want an ‘executive’ in the kitchen, or did we want a ‘real’ chef in the kitchen. We chose to have a real chef. Now he’s evolved to be both. We have a golden thing here. Croy smiles, “Thanks, boss!” After Cipes leaves the table, Croy leans in, “I really did want to be Chef, I just didn’t want anything to do with the numbers! Food being the most dear to my heart, I realized I had to figure out how to do the numbers. Now, I consider that to be one of my greatest strengths.”

Like a great musician, Croy’s natural talent was honed with experience, self-confidence, and trust in all his players. “If this is music, I’ve got some incredible instruments. My raw ingredients, my building blocks here – all that needs to be done is to respect them properly, and it all ends up in the right spot. Also, I’ve got the best team.” Croy credits many people for helping his achievements, especially his Sous Chef of six years, Jesse Rivard. He’s the Kurri to my Gretzky,” says Croy. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without him. We share the workload between two departments in my kitchen. It’s somewhat unorthodox, but it works really well.”

Croy feels lucky to have “the privilege of working with fresh, local food” and the farmers who grow it. I know exactly what’s coming out of the garden on any day of the year, and that’s fun. Some people say, how did you come up with this? I can say, “well, a local farmer biked to Summerhill with the ingredients, I took them out of his hands, and soon after, they arrived on your plate.”

Croy’s abilities make things look easy. His talent for picking out flavours and nuances in wines and food is second to none. “Have you ever been into something, like learning a new instrument? Initially, you’re bewildered, but if you do it day-in and day-out, you find the ability to trust yourself…There’s a lot of pressure to create, but as a chef, you are also doing other things, like math. You still have to come up with this masterpiece because the customer expects it. So I tell myself, ‘Jess, don’t worry about it. It will come to you.’&rdq The restaurant now has an opportunity to seek a food primary licence, which opens the door to much more year round community use. Exciting upgrades are planned! With its stellar lakeview location and the best organic ingredients executed by a masterful team, dining at the Sunset Organic Bistro any day of the week is an experience to savour.

1999 Cipes Ariel $85.00

Over 20 years ago, Eric (Von Krosigk) and I started Summerhill with the idea of creating the finest ‘champagne-house’ in the world, right here in BC,” explains Cipes. “Now all Canadians can buy it.” Just released, Cipes Ariel is the longest-cellared of Summerhill’s internationally award-winning sparkling wine portfolio. Rivalling the best of France, it’s a rich and complex blend of Estate-grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier that Croy describes as “old as the hills, a bready-caramel flavour almost like Vegemite. I love Vegemite.”

~ Sarah Willard