Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

Toques off to a 30-year work in progress

Araxi marks a milestone most only dream of



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Then you've got the awards and accolades Araxi has earned, besides the Ramsay declaration. Praise from the likes of the London Times ; bouquets of four-star ratings; return engagements at James Beard House, New York, and, more recently and closer to home, something a little more personal: For Jack, a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award this year from Vancouver Magazine, home to the most respected restaurant awards in the Lower Mainland, and as close as we get around here to a culinary queen bequeathing a knighthood.

But to me, tracker of all things sustainable, from oceans to carbon content in our atmosphere, to the growing class divide, and more, what stands out about Jack and Araxi - to be clear, the man and his restaurant, not the man and his wife, which may also be true, but of which I have no knowledge and so cannot fairly comment - is the putting of his money, and his actions, where his mouth is when it comes to social and environmental responsibility.

For starters, Jack and his company are big supporters of the David Suzuki Foundation (a personal favourite), Chefs for Life, British Columbia Hospitality Foundation (giving a hand up to those in the hospitality industry who need one), and the Green Table Network, which works hard to get Canadian restaurants and the like to go green with Canadian solutions.

The sustainability thing comes out in practice, too. Top Table restaurants are part of the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise conservation program, which means whatever fish or seafood you see on their menus is from a sustainable source.

This is no token gesture. Check it out, sushi lovers and beyond. Whenever you're next in a restaurant, scan the menu or ask your server about seafood sustainability. Despite the fact we've fished out 90 per cent of the world's major fish stocks and the ocean is acidifying daily with increased carbon content, I'll bet my organic lentils you'll find that 9 out of 10 eateries out there aren't providing sustainable options, even when they know better.

Same with Chef Walt's "locals rule" philosophy. What's more sustainable than featuring whatever's in season - beef, beets, berries - from nearby Pemberton, and why the heck aren't more local eateries using local ingredients?

Never mind a "best-in-Canada" dining experience, although that's not hard to mind. These approaches and actions are much more valuable and valued, and supersede any kowtowing to convenience, novelty, or trend lines. Must be about more than the money.

And all this from a starry-eyed, 20-something-year-old engineering student from Montreal, who came to Whistler with his wife and young friends in 1981 to ski all day and work a restaurant at night. They arrived with a 44-foot trailer packed with all the furniture they needed to open a restaurant in Mountainside Lodge - a building they naively assumed would be completed as promised, but wouldn't be ready for a year.