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Chef's Choice: Mike Quigley of The Lift at Nesters



Despite the family history behind Mike Quigley's tomato sauce, he's not keeping the recipe locked up in a vault somewhere.

"Secret recipes should be saved for those who can't cook," Quigley said with a laugh.

Since September, Quigley has been serving up his tomato sauce as head chef of The Lift Coffee Company at Nesters.

Because of the family history tied to it — his great-grandfather served it in mid-20th-Century Toronto — he says it's his biggest point of pride as a chef.

"The recipe for the tomato sauce that I'm currently using here, Heinz approached my great grandfather in the 1950s and asked him if he would like to sell or participate in the company... it would be the first ever canned or jarred tomato sauce available commercially in a grocery store," Quigley said.

"And being the scared, cheap Italian man he was... they wanted $50,000 as a payment from him, and he was in absolutely no way going to do that, that was way too much money for him in the 1950s."

His great-grandmother would lament that fact for years — "she would swear in Italian and say, 'do you have any idea how much money we would all have?'" he said — but Quigley is happy to share the recipe.

"Just because I would be willing to tell you what's in my tomato sauce, doesn't mean that I don't think that I could still make it better than you can," he laughed.

So you can take a shot at it yourself with the attached recipe, or you can head in to The Lift and have Chef Mike make it for you.

But Quigley's menu is about more than tomato sauce.

"We are much more than a coffee shop," he said.

"We do serve excellent, excellent coffee, our baristas are fantastic at what they do, but we have a full menu going on here and we are ready, willing and able to provide for locals and visitors alike."

Quigley takes pride in everything on the menu, whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner.

"Our breakfast is absolutely unreal here, we get very busy," he said.

"We have a potato waffle on our menu that we're very proud of. It's basically almost like a Russian potato latke that we take and we press in a waffle iron. It's flavoured with some paprika and roasted garlic and green onion.

"We do try and offer lots of gluten-free and healthy alternatives, so you know, things like that potato waffle are gluten and dairy-free."

Everyone loves a good breakfast, but it's the dinner menu that has diners coming back.

"The dinner menu is where the majority of my pride shines," Quigley said.

"One of the dishes on my menu, the coconut sweet chili rice bowl, basically was the dish that let my fiancé know that I wasn't just a cook, that I was in fact a chef, that I kind of knew what I was doing."

There's also a Pemberton meatball linguini, Pemberton beef burger and — the most popular item on the menu — the beef short rib.

And for those longing for the distant taste of home, Quigley is serving up a weekly Sunday night, home-cooked roast beef meal.

"We have several people come in every week to see us. It's still very organically growing," Quigley said, of the Sunday Carvy.

"It's a great place for under $20 dollars, to come in and get your huge Sunday night dinner."

One of the newest additions to the menu is Quigley's handmade Italian pizzas.

"We offer the cheapest pizza in Whistler at $15 and three toppings," Quigley said.

"We try and keep the ingredients simple, light and fresh. We're not doing a heavy, greasy thing over here by any means."

Quigley said he'd like to invite the Whistler locals to come in and try what he's serving up.

"Try us for breakfast, lunch or dinner," he said.

"We are really proud of what we do. We are very approachable, we are very friendly, and we'd love to see you."

Nono's Classic Tomato Sauce


2 cans of tomatoes from Italy

1 medium white onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

3 stems of basil

125 mL of dry white wine

100 mL of olive oil

Salt and fresh ground pepper for seasoning


Sautée the onion and garlic in a quarter of the olive oil. When the onion pieces are translucent, add basil stems and deglaze with white wine. Reduce by half. Add the canned tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat. Simmer on low for 2 to 3 hours or until tomato sauce is pleasantly sweet. Blend in high-speed blender with remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to your desired taste.

Add to any of your Italian favorites! Great with seafood, pasta, or even lasagna eggs at breakfast!

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