A local chef has been judged by his peers to be tops in Canada—the first time in 46 years the honour has come to the Okanagan.
Chef Willi Franz has dished up gourmet creations in Kelowna and now in Lake Country for more than 30 years, from the Williams Inn, to his current post at the Grapevine Restaurant at Gray Monk Estate Winery.
Last week, his fellow members of the Canadian Culinary Federation presented him with the Chef of the Year award at the federation’s annual conference in Vancouver. The trophy is an art glass creation from Winfield.
Franz was named chef of the year by the Okanagan Chefs’ Association in 2010 and Western regional chef of the year for 2011.
Those regional selections were in the running for the national award, which was voted on by the 26 regional presidents.
He is passionate about preparing delicious dishes using fresh, local ingredients in season, and he feels strongly about the importance of nurturing the next generation of chefs, and organized the Junior Chefs’ Competition at Okanagan College in 2010, as part of the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival.
“I want to pass on the passion,” he admits.
He has also led in other community efforts, including as a founding member of the international gastronomic association, Chaine des Rotisseurs in the Okanagan; and in helping to organize events at the Kelowna Gospel Mission feeding 200 patrons.
Franz has found a local farmer, Lake Country Culinary Gardens, who supplies much of his fresh produce and delivers it twice a week, and he sources local breads from Okanagan Grocer and Bread on Wheels as well as fresh fish from Codfathers.
Although they have a good return of staff each season, Franz says there are also some new young chefs every year, “and they get me excited with their new outlook on things,” he comments.
The award goes to a chef who had made an outstanding contribution to the culinary arts.