When he accepted the job at Araxi, he was
charged with the mandate of changing the
concept from Italian to local and seasonal.
But he didn’t realize just how much local
abundance he would have to play with.
“Pemberton was a pleasant surprise,” he
recalls, referring to the lush farming valley
just north of Whistler. “I honestly had no
idea there was so much being grown here.
Over the years, it’s become even easier. There
are four times as many farms, foragers and
Working with the local farmers to learn
what works best in the region was another
collaborative experience that helped shape
“I had used things like burdock, salsify and
sunchokes before, but it took some education
from them [the farmers]. I remember
discovering all the carrots. There were four,
five, six types of carrots. And the potatoes —
we have at least 13 varieties here.
“Pemberton is really a hotbed for root
vegetables and potatoes,” he adds, noting
that the sandy soil, proximity to rivers and
historic lack of blight helps them grow
strong and exceptionally sweet. “It really
doesn’t get much better for these crops
anywhere in Canada.”
Araxi: Roots to Shoots Farm Fresh Recipes is
divided into seasons. For a farm-to-table
restaurant, winter can often be a tough
season. Luckily for Walt and Araxi, those
exceptional local root vegetables can be
easily cellared and work wonderfully in
hearty mountain winter fare.
The book, which includes restaurant
recipes adapted for home cooks, features
superb balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts,
tantalizing carrot-and-coriander soup and
tempting beet salsa. But those who really
want to see what a supremely creative
kitchen can do with the challenge of a local
winter pantry should go to the restaurant
to experience one of its potato or root-vegetable tastings, which showcase different
varieties or present the same vegetable in
four different ways.
For Whistler, the entire concept of
seasonality has changed a lot in 20 years.
There is no off-season anymore. The summer
and shoulder seasons, filled with mountain
biking, hiking, marathons, festivals and food
events, are just as busy as the winter.
“People forget just how dead it was in the
off-season,” Walt remembers. “When it’s
slower, you get itchy feet if you don’t feel like
you’re progressing.” Fortunately for him and
the whole team, that makes the restaurant
a fertile bed of creativity; Araxi has always
been owned by companies that are interested
“That’s what has kept me here for 20 years.
We are always trying to raise the level of
what we do — the food culture, the seafood,
the wine list. We’re always pushing, and that
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