Richard Norwood opened the sophisticated Norwoods Restaurant in Ucluelet ten years ago. He recently sold his restaurant and is retiring at the end of March. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Esteemed chef Richard Norwood retires at 55

Norwoods was a breath of fresh air for the small fishing village of Ucluelet when it opened in 2009.

After 37 years in the kitchen, chef Richard Peter Norwood is packing up his knives and retiring.

Norwoods Restaurant was a breath of fresh air for the small fishing village of Ucluelet when the notable chef opened his 32-seat establishment on Peninsula Road in April 2009.

At one point throughout the intimate dining rooms’ 10-year lifespan, Norwoods was ranked the number one restaurant in Canada on TripAdvisor.

“We stayed there actually for 10 months,” said Norwood. “They don’t do those rankings anymore. We stayed there until they stopped doing the rankings. That was pretty amazing. Out of 46,000 restaurants we were the number one in Canada.”

Norwood shared his recipe for success.

“It’s a combination of getting good ingredients, the knowledge to know what to do with those ingredients, and the details. Looking after the details,” he said.

After graduating third in his class at George Brown College in Toronto, Norwood took an apprentice chef position at the five star Constellation Hotel. A few years later, he helped open up Langdon Hall, which is a Relais & Châteaux. Norwood moved out west to work at the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel in ‘89. Then he travelled to Europe, cooking in hotels such as the Nikko Hotel in Germany and a small family-owned hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland. He moved back to B.C. to continue working at Harrison after about three years overseas.

“I came out to Ucluelet in 2001, opened up the Tauca Lea Resort and ran that successfully for eight years and then opened up Norwoods and I’ve been here ever since.”

Nowadays, Norwood said his joints and knees are starting to get a little sore from working on a concrete floor for so many years.

“I feel the time is right to retire. I was considering retiring, and Warren and Lily heard that I was retiring and they came and wanted to buy the restaurant, so I thought, it’s a perfect time,” said Norwood, adding that the new owners are at a perfect stage in their lives to run a restaurant.

Chef Warren Barr and general manager Lily Verney-Downey said they are ready for the pressure that comes with taking over such a prestigious locale.

“We’ve been searching for this opportunity for years. And then when we were able to find it right in our backyard, it was sort of like a dream come true of sorts,” said Barr.

Barr and Verney-Downey officially take possession of Norwoods on April 1.

They said they’re not doing much to alter the foundation of the open kitchen restaurant, although a name change is certain.

“We we’re trying to find a word that described how we feel about living here on the Coast and we found this word ‘pluviophile’ which means somebody who finds joy and peace of mind in the rain,” said Verney-Downey. “We thought ‘Pluvio’ was perfect. That’s it.”

Serving people, said Norwood, is what he loved most—and will miss the most—about owning his own restaurant.

“That’s what we do,” he simply says.

Retirement plans are free and loose at the moment, Norwood notes. He’s thinking about building some furniture and especially looking forward to cooking on a small-scale for family and friends.

“I still love food absolutely. Still love it very much,” said the Canadian chef.

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