Let’s celebrate local food says chef

Award-winning local chef Mark Filatow believes we should let the world know about the great food we grow here.

Local farmer Loretta Cross offered fresh apple juice produced in their Rutland orchard to those celebrating Tourism Kelowna's Farm to Table program Sunday.

Although we grow the best food right here, we’re shy about telling people, says a local chef who has eaten in top restaurants all over the world.

Instead, it’s time we let the world know, says chef Mark Filatow, a gold medal plates award-winning local chef who focusses his energy on preparing food sourced from as close to his kitchen as possible.

He was speaking at a reception Sunday to celebrate Tourism Kelowna’s Farm to Table program that connects farmers and chefs to create and serve local foods.

Filatow’s Waterfront Restaurant and Wine Bar Tuesday picked up gold for the Best Okanagan restaurant in the 24th annual Vancouver Magazine restaurant awards, for the fourth year in a row.

Bouchons, a French restaurant in the same Sunset Drive neighbourhood as Filatow’s won silver this year in the competition, while chef Rod Butters’ downtown RauDZ Regional Table won Bronze.

In the Best Winery dining category, Miradora at Tinhorn Creek won Gold, while West Kelowna’s Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate won Silver and the Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill won Bronze.

All espouse the philosophy of creating dishes using fresh, local food seasonally, harvested close to the dining table—which fits right in with the Farm to Table program.

“My job is to put it on a plate and to not wreck what you have produced,” Filatow commented to the farmers in attendance who enjoyed such bites as mushrooms with garlic aioli and a sliver of asparagus on a bite-sized piece of homemade bread and glasses of local VQA wines from The View Winery in East Kelowna and CedarCreek Estate Winery in the Mission.

Tourism Kelowna CEO Nancy Cameron noted that Kelowna’s food roots run deep, but she said it is time now to share what we have with tourists, particularly as there’s a growing demand for locally-produced food.

She thanked the province’s Buy Local program and the Investment Agriculture Foundation for the $100,000 grant received this spring to expand the Farm to Table program, increase visitor awareness of the program and improve its interactive website.

IAF executive director Peter Donkers explained that by building local value chains money is kept in the local economy to grow.

“Tourists want to buy local; to experience the area they’re visiting,” he said.

That’s why businesses around farmers’ markets around the province are benefitting from market locations, as people visit the markets not only to shop, but for the experience of what’s grown locally, he added.

That interest is expanding to restaurants and grocery stores as people demand locally-produced food for its freshness, its inspiration and to support local farmers, he said.

Local orchardists and farmers Glenn and Loretta Cross of Function Junction Fruit Stand and Double Cross Cidery offered their unpasteurized apple juice to those in attendance.

Glenn talked about his grandfather’s arrival in Kelowna in 1872, where he began growing apples and making cider.

Today, he said they’re still growing on those roots, expanding with branches that reach right into restaurants such as the Grand Bay Cafe, Terrace Restaurant and Manteo’s Smack Dab, with fresh produce, fruit and juices.