Sooke Harbour House Wins Awards
Over the years, Tidings staff has had the pleasure of interviewing Sooke Harbour House chefs and dining in the Vancouver-based world-renowned restaurant. In 2007, columnist Joanne Will visited Sooke and had an opportunity to slice off the top of a bottle of champagne with a sabre. Believers in all things local, organic and sustainable, Sooke has made a name for itself among chefs and diners alike.
Recently, owners Sinclair and Frederique Philip received a Lifetime Achievement for Best Restaurant Award.
If the Philips suggest that they were doing the 100-Mile Diet long before Bishop’s and Ocean Wise, they wouldn’t be too far off the mark. So passionate is the staff about regional dining that not one bit of produce appears in a dish that isn’t indigenous to the area. Imagine trying to cook without a squeeze of lemon or a drop of maple syrup. Talk about pushing the creative envelope!
For the Philips, serving seasonal, regional foods at Sooke Harbour House was never about being in vogue. “In 1979, when we started to serve local food, we had no idea that eating regionally and seasonally would become as popular as it is today,” says Sinclair Philip. “When we opened, we simply thought, with such an abundance of high quality regional ingredients, why would we need to bring in foods from anywhere else? We weren’t trying to start a trend, it was just common sense, and also the way we used to eat when we lived in rural France.”
Over the past 31 years, almost all of the food served at the Sooke Harbour House has come from its own certified organic gardens and farm, local area farms in Sooke and Metchosin, and the ocean at their doorstep. “We still have some of the same suppliers we have worked with for the past 31 years,” says Philip. “We have established a regular supply of free range lamb from across Sooke Bay at Silver Spray Farm, local rabbits, Tamworth pigs, suckling kid, Vancouver Island bison, pastured Cowichan Bay chicken, and we serve rare breed animals from our area.” On top of this, “we were perhaps the first restaurant in Canada to make widespread use of edible flowers, grown outdoors, twelve months of the year,” he adds.
Over these 31 years, the Philips and their team at Sooke Harbour House have learned to work with roughly twenty different types of local seaweeds and large numbers of indigenous plants, berries, wild herbs and mushrooms.
“From the very beginning, we realized that it is important to support the production of small scale, artisan cheeses from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. I even have a cheese named after me; that is St. Clair, from Hilary’s Cheese. We can now serve sheep, cow, goat and water buffalo cheeses most months of the year so why would we bring in cheese from the outside?” Philip says.
“We have also worked to sustain local wines, spirits, ciders and vinegars, as well as meads from Tugwell Creek Meadery and Honey Farm in Sooke.”
This year’s Lifetime Achievement for Best Restaurant Award also marks the 21st consecutive year that the Sooke Harbour House Hotel has received the award. The Philips credit much of this to their staff at the
Sooke Harbour House. Frederique Philip says, “I am very proud that our kitchen team has once again been honoured with this distinction for their hard and consistent work. It is very hard to maintain this level of quality day in and day out and I really admire them for their ongoing creativity and consistency. It is a pleasure to work with artisans who come up with new dishes that reflect the rhythms of the seasons, and who respect the intrinsic nature of the ingredients from our certified organic gardens and the sea nearby. We have been very fortunate over the last thirty years to have been able to work with such outstanding people.”
Got the travel bug, yet? Visit the Sooke Harbour House restaurant and see if lives up to its name.