When Eric Griffith was reached by phone to discuss his restaurant's involvement in the province-wide Eat Drink Local campaign, the co-owner of Alta Bistro was on his way to Abbotsford. Why, you might ask? Well, to pick up "a ton of chicken feed," of course.
"We wanted to basically take the feed to the next level with our production because the quality of the chickens (we served last summer) was amazing, but we needed to find a better feed," Griffith explained. "We believe what we feed them is the most important."
It should go without saying that most restaurateurs don't delve into this level of, uh, granular detail. Most certainly aren't hauling industrial-sized bags of organic chicken feed. But Griffith isn't like most restaurateurs. His attention to detail stems from an innate passion for food and a genuine desire to serve only the best products at his B.C.-inspired French bistro, where everything from the pork to the hand soap is sourced from close by.
So when Griffith was asked to participate in the provincial government's campaign aimed at celebrating B.C.-made food and drink, it was a no-brainer.
"We're already doing this, so why wouldn't we be a part of it?" said Griffith, who explained that the restaurant has been working with Kevin Damaskie at his Pemberton farm, Collins Crossing, to grow pork and chicken exclusively for Alta Bistro.
"It's a different quality level and it's a different level of control. We know exactly what we're getting," Griffith added.
The other resort restaurant taking part is Stonesedge, which features 16 B.C.-made wines on its menu and a number of regional ingredients.
"It falls in line very much with what we are. We're super B.C. in terms of not only the food, but also the booze we have on the menu," said restaurant GM Chris Baddeley.
The Eat Drink Local campaign is a joint initiative between the Ministry of Agriculture and the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association (BCRFSA). Its goal is to celebrate the connections between the people who grow and harvest B.C.'s food products and the restaurants that showcase them. Participating restaurants are featured alongside food producers on the Eat Drink Local website (eatdrinklocal.ca) and are encouraged to offer "unique local dining experiences" that highlight the bounty of B.C. ingredients.
"The idea is to use restaurants that so many British Columbians go to every day and introduce the top products we have here in B.C.," noted Ian Tostenson, president of the BCRFSA.
Because of the staggering diversity in food styles on offer here, it can be difficult to define exactly what constitutes B.C. cuisine. In recent years, however, restaurants have begun leveraging the wide array and superior quality of produce, seafood and meats available here to carve out an ingredient-driven culinary identity that many outside of B.C. have started to pick up on.
"When people taste products from B.C., they're often surprised at the freshness and the quality of products we have," Tostenson said. "When you create that awareness, it translates to local purchasing and a multiplier effect in economies all throughout B.C."
Now in Year 1 of the program, Tostenson is hopeful Eat Drink Local will ultimately showcase B.C.'s distinct agricultural and culinary landscape to the level of other foodie hotspots, like California, where the concept of locally driven cuisine has been entrenched for years.
"I don't think there's been anything as pervasive as Eat Drink Local that showcases what B.C. has to offer," Tostenson said, who outlined his long-term vision for the campaign.
"We've talked about this as a multi-year program that expands every year. We want eatdrinklocal.ca to become a living website that will constantly be updated with a list of producers, restaurants and local ingredients and where we can get them."