Each summer, the Restaurant Association of Whistler (RAW) holds a commemorative golf tournament in honour of the fathers of the resort's dining scene.
It's also a way to continue the legacy of those pioneering restaurateurs — most notably the late Joel Thibault and Pascal Tiphine — by giving back to the community. This year, the organization's Memorial Cup Golf Tournament raised $20,000, and is dishing out cheques to several local and provincial charities this week ahead of the holiday season.
"We really want to celebrate them because they were the pioneers," said RAW president Amy Huddle of Whistler's early restaurateurs. "They were the originals, they started restaurants in a place that no one thought was going to succeed, and they persevered through some really tough, really lean years.
"We've had some really shining examples of people who have been in town for 25, 30 years and those people really do need to be celebrated for being brave enough to set up shop in Whistler and stick with it. "
In all, RAW will pitch in $500 to Whistler Animals Galore, $1,000 to the BC Cancer Society to help fight a disease that claimed Tipine's life just two years ago, $5,000 to the Whistler Food Bank and $10,000 to the BC Hospitality Foundation.
"They're the organization that helps out anybody who works in the restaurant industry who's had any (financial) difficulties (due to medical issues), because so many people who have started in this industry aren't covered with medical insurance and that sort of thing," Huddle said of the foundation.
The association will also hand out $500 scholarships this year to seven local high school students pursuing the culinary arts or hospitality in post-secondary school.
Huddle explained why Whistler's restaurant industry is inclined to do its part in the community: "I think it's the nature of people who run restaurants to be charitable and hospitable.
"If ever there is anybody in town who needs fundraising, they know they can count on the restaurant (industry)."
Unlike the early days of the resort, when you could count the number of places to grab a meal on two hands, the restaurant scene of today is as expansive as it is competitive. Yet the chefs, line cooks, servers, managers and bussers that drive Whistler's restaurants have maintained the tightknit feel that people like Thibault and Tiphine first instilled so many years ago.
"We're a very strange organization because we're constantly helping each other even though we're competitors," Huddle said. "I've never worked in a community like this. It's pretty amazing when something happens at one restaurant, someone else puts up their hand to offer help."
For more information, visit www.restaurantswhistler.com.