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Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild brings local food to local tables

The non-profit links local food producers with West Coast restaurants
The Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild (TUCG) carries products like kelp seasoning made by Tofino-based, Indigenous owned Naas Foods. (Naas Foods photo)

By S Fuller

Special to the Westerly

The terroir in which Ucluelet is located offers much, and on many levels, be it unique and spectacular scenery, world-renowned and exhilarating wild trails, a range of nearby beaches to surf at, an innovative catch-&-release micro aquarium, and a plethora of wonderful eateries —, a good few founded on a commitment to terroir-based food, wine and beer sourcing.

This relatively wide-spread commitment to using foods harvested locally, and in tune with the seasons, led to a community-based, non-profit initiative, headed in most part by West Coast restaurants, linked to local food producers, who harvest from ocean and land alike.

Viola. TUCG .

Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild (TUCG) is a perfect manifestation of an alliance between producers of local foods; local restaurants and otter eateries; and consumers, who hold to a farm-to-table/local seafood kelp-to-plate mindset.

I am just such a person, having come from a family, which, of all things, owned for a time a small strawberry estate on the Zambian/Congo border. I, as a young child, helped my mother deliver the most gloriously sweet strawberries to residents in the nearby town of Ndola, 13 miles away, also the town where I went to primary school and where my father’s other business was based.

It had a large ex pat British community, who loved strawberries and cream, and it turned out the terroir and local climate were perfect for growing strawberries.

As an adult, I have always sought out the fresh and the local, buying fish et al off fisher’s boats, and much else at local farmers’ markets, always avoiding heavily- processed food sold in mass-produced boxes, etc. , where I could.

Now I find myself in the best of all world, a world where the non-profit TUCG emails its weekly fresh sheet to me and my Ukee family, and which has a well-organized web site from which to order all its products, including cleaning products and toiletries.

And Its staff members are terrific, if one needs additional information or help. My Ukee family has been a member for some time, since TUCG’s fairly recent establishment.

I wanted to make some purchases myself from TUCG, as food gifts for my stay, alongside my wine & beer gifts, and I was kindly given a temporary account from which to do so over the holiday season.

Family membership is 40 $ a year, renewable every April. It has three categories of membership extending from family/individual consumers, to eateries, through to producers. It also has government partnership.

TUCG is truly a win, win for all — the region, the community and the planet included.

Deliveries to Ukee are weekly for pickup, usually on a Friday from 2 to 5 pm.

Orders are to be completed by Monday nights at 9pm, customers having received the fresh additions email a few days in advance. There are opportunities to get in a late just before delivery order but by then much is already sold out.

I have made two orders thus far, one which included a kelp seasoning, created by Tofino-based Naas Foods at $15.99 for a small container. Naas Foods is indigenous-owned and has some great superfoods with its product design done by a family member, who is an indigenous artist.

This seasoning is a superfood combo. My plan is to make, as one of my weekly food contributions, a pasta with a sauce of good olive oil, Russian Red crushed garlic — which I also got from TUCG, — some small sheets of nori torn up and included, with a topping of Parmesan cheese.

It is in my culinary imagination now, but I hope to plate it soon.

Hugely nutritious and delicious dishes easily come to mind when buying from TUCG, which reopened on January 2 , after its seasonal break from December 23.

TUCG gives estimates on offerings by weight, such as meat cuts, only fully invoicing once all is weighed, another nice aspect.

My favourite Ukee eateries are all members of TUCG, all committed to being terroir-based.

The French word, terroir, firmly incorporated into English, refers to the unique aspects manifest in wine and food harvested and crafted in particular regions,. It is a good one to keep in mind when buying — for our palates, our communities and our planet.

S Fuller has had a career, where writing has been the focus, working as a journalist and mostly a foreign correspondent for international news agency, Reuters, as well as also being an academic, where writing papers, following research, is the way to gaining acclaim, far over even committed teaching!

She writes now, often pro bono, as well as helping immigrants pro bono with writing and communication projects.

She maintains a paying artist client in LA, who she writes art titles and essays for, delighting in having those bits of higher U.S. dollar earnings, sent directly to her two grandchildren in Ukee, where they live.

READ MORE: Ucluelet’s innovative catch-and-release aquarium still a main attraction nearly a decade later