Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Get Stuffed

A conversation with Jack Evrensel:

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For 24 years, Jack and his ideas have been quietly setting benchmarks in restaurant-land

Recently, you may have spotted a full-page ad in the Pique celebrating Araxi Restaurant. Once again, it had garnered top honours in Vancouver Magazine ’s annual restaurant awards. The ad celebrated key members of the Araxi team; typically, neither the owner, Jack Evrensel, nor his wife, Araxi, were even mentioned.

Halloween this year will mark the 24th anniversary of Araxi’s opening. Despite the key role the restaurant has played at Whistler, both as a literal and figurative cornerstone, Jack and Araxi have always maintained low profiles.

By contrast, some restaurateurs turn their eateries into showcases starring themselves – not that that’s a bad thing, just that it’s the antithesis of Jack and his restaurants (Araxi in Whistler and West, Blue Water and CinCin in Vancouver). There they go quietly about their business, serving up the type of food and warm, unobtrusive hospitality that generates customer delight and international accolades – praise from the likes of the London Times ; a plethora of four-star ratings; return engagements for the chefs at James Beard House in New York.

I’ve known Jack since he first opened Araxi (then called Salt & Pepper), when Whistler Village had barely roused itself from its previous incarnation as a garbage dump, and can attest to just how low he flies under the radar screen. The fact that he rarely grants interviews is all the more remarkable given the stature his restaurants have attained. So consider yourself lucky, as I did, to glean some of Jack’s stories and ideas right from the source in this first of a two-part conversation:

GB: You and Araxi came to Whistler from Montreal with your friends, Aline and Aram. What brought you here?

JE: We came out to Whistler to open a restaurant in Mountainside Lodge. It was going to be a Montreal-style crêperie called Crêperie Chez Moi. But they didn’t tell us that the building was a year late – they gave us a date and, naively, we showed up on time with a 44-foot trailer with all the furniture for the restaurant. We had to wait a year for the building to finish.

GB: So what were you doing at the time in Montreal?

JE: We were all friends in Montreal in our mid-20s. We are all Armenian, so we were part of the Armenian community. Aram was a basketball buddy of mine; Aline was a friend of Araxi’s for years.

JE: I was studying mechanical engineering at Concordia University. My father wanted me to be a mechanical engineer. But early on I knew that wasn’t my future. One of my mentors, a very successful mechanical engineer who was one of my teachers, drew up a plan of what I would be doing in 20 years. That was not appealing to me, knowing the future. It wasn’t exciting at all – I’d rather not know.

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