Long gone is the notion of a chef as a person in whites who toils in a hidden restaurant kitchen cooking people’s meals. With the advent of TV food programs and the surge of interest in all things food – verging on cult status – many of our chefs today are personalities, artists; you might even say rock stars of culinaria. We await their next creative moves. What are they going to do and how are they going to do it?

Here are three Okanagan chefs who love to keep us surprised.

Chef to You
Chris Van Hooydonk is celebrity Okanagan chef who has decided to branch out on his own. Formerly executive chef at The Sonora Room Restaurant at Burrowing Estate Winery in Oliver, Chris has started Artisan Culinary Concepts in January, which he describes as “a truly unique, guest-driven Okanagan culinary experience. The idea is really quite simple– a food lover’s dream: the ability to hire a personal chef for an evening, either for high end catering purposes, business or personal, interactive or not.”

That’s just the beginning of what Artisan Culinary Concepts can offer. With 17 years of experience in the industry, Chris teaches private and public cooking classes in people’s homes, businesses, in a vineyard, in his own personal orchard or kitchen. He’ll also be doing restaurant consulting and mentoring and teaching owners and chefs how to operate a seasonal, high-end restaurant in a seasonal environment. “And finally, I will continue to sell and market my handcrafted preserving and product line. Under the name Backyard Farm, the majority of products use ingredients from my orchard and gardens, and if not, then from like-minded, quality farmers and producers,” says Chris.

Artisan Culinary Concepts is a true vision of everything Chris is passionate about–his home, family, orchard, career and mentorship, all paired with his unadulterated love of everything food. “Truly what I have started is what I consider a chef’s dream–having a  
FoodSafe, commercial kitchen in my home, surrounded by our gardens and 60 fruit trees.”              

Visit: artisanculinaryconcepts.com


Field to Plate
Chef Liam McNulty is the culinary rock star at The Patio at Nk’Mip Cellars at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos. He’s a natural chef who really respects and appreciates food. “It affects our health in such drastic ways, yet most people will put more thought into what they’re going to wear that day and not give any attention to the daily dose of energy, our food. Seasonal, local, whole foods, I call them–that’s my philosophy.”

Self-taught Liam is from Alberta where he worked at Culina’s, Norman’s Bistro and Bistro Praha in Edmonton before moving out to BC about six years ago to help found Passa Tempo at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos. He ran the kitchens at Bibo in Osoyoos and its sister bistro in Nelson before heading up The Patio at Nk’Mip.

Liam creates The Patio menu from local and seasonal foods. “I know all the farmers that supply our restaurant. I am lucky enough to go to the fields, pick tomatoes and herbs. All of our proteins and fish come from BC, our pork and lamb from the Fraser Valley. Our beef is humanly raised in Oliver. The chickens we get from Cawston have a life that would make Bill Gates jealous, and you can taste that.”
Highlights to expect at The Patio? Anticipate Quadra Island mussels prepared with local garlic scapes and Nk’Mip Pinot Blanc, beef brisket from Oliver that will be smoked daily. “And of course, our local Sockeye salmon caught through the Okanagan Nation Alliance, served with butter-braised local Swiss chard, fingerling potato confit, and almond Romesco. Visit: nkmipcellars.com


Farm to Bowl
Paul Cecconi is very well known to Okanagan foodies as the long-time executive chef at The Harvest Golf Club in Kelowna and executive chef at Local Lounge • Grille in Summerland. Now the chef, who also worked for the Four Seasons Hotel in both Vancouver and Australia, is doing what he calls the next challenge in his career – opening Brodo Kitchen & Catering in Penticton. “Operating my own business excites me thoroughly,” he says.

Paul is partnering with his wife Holly in Brodo (broth in Italian) and that’s part of the point– to mix business with family…and that also means children! He’s also undertaking his new enterprise to incorporate his food philosophy which is really simple, even after all his years as an acclaimed, award-winning chef. “Keep it uncomplicated and deliver fresh food with lots of flavor!!” says Paul.

The chef calls Brodo “an upscale farm to bowl experience…offering six soups/bowls, four artisan sandwiches, a few locally-sourced salads and a local juice program. There will be a grab ‘n go cooler offering chilled soups, stocks, condiments to take home, along with our own preserving line following the harvest.”  Soups and bowls may include rich minestrone with potato gnocci and pancetta, braised bison chili and cornbread and smoked oyster-squash chowder. You might also find warm corned beef and the “best grilled cheese” on the sandwich menu.
“This will be my first experience executing counter service,” says Paul. “I am excited for this as it will allow me to engage my guests as they enter Brodo and be able to show my passion for my offerings.” Visit: tastebrodo.com

~ Dona Sturmanis