Top chef and owner of Ucluelet’s The Blue Room Dustin Riley is prepping the community for the launch of an informal culinary club.
The inaugural meeting of the chefs is set for Monday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. at The Blue Room on Peninsula Road. Riley hopes the gathering will encourage the formation of a collective voice for local restaurateurs as well as help solve its most pressing dilemma: ‘What’s open?’
“Everyone says it and sees it,” said Riley. “The closures are the number one thing. We need to organize so that there is always a place open, not only for tourism, but also for locals. That’s the main problem that I can see.”
He encouraged anyone from the hospitality industry to attend the first meeting.
“There has been a lot of positive feedback on the concept. I don’t want it to be a society and I don’t want to have to submit minutes. I want it to be laid back and just for us. That’s why I said club.”
Riley thinks there are a lot of culinary events Ucluelet can host as a collective, much like Tofino hosts their annual Food and Wine Festival.
“We are more powerful together as a group than singly trying to get a slice of the pie,” he said.
About a decade ago when The Blue Room first opened, Riley said he’d seat maybe three tables all day long in January.
“Now it’s a line up out the door. We have a lot of worker crews coming in that need to be fed. We have people coming in right at 4 p.m. and grabbing early dinner because they know nothing is open.”
Kasia Kromka opened Solidarity Snacks, one of Ucluelet’s favourite lunch spots, about six years ago.
“It’s way busier,” she attested. “There are way more tourists. And, there are still not enough food businesses. If you go around, there are not that many lunch options and after 9 p.m. there’s nothing open.”
Kromka said she’s excited about participating in the Feb. 4 culinary meet-up.
“It would be good to have a communal group so we can all have a say and potentially organize closures better. People can stagger when they close and take breaks and days off,” said Kromka, who will close Solidarity Snacks for all of February.
“I’m hoping we can make a cool club happen and maybe make a Ukee food scene happen. Tofino’s food scene is so huge, I think it’d be awesome if we can do the same thing out here,” she said.