Gold Medal Plates Victoria 2017 – Chef Lisa Ahier – Sobo in Tofino

Checking In With Chef Lisa Ahier Before Victoria’s Culinary Championships

Chef Lisa Ahier hails from Tofino and is the absolute real thing. She can be found, when not in the kitchen, out kayaking and foraging and I’d join her anytime in any of these pursuits! Superstar chef, so down to earth. We must get back to Tofino soon.

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Many thanks to Jennifer Schell for the photos for this article!

Tell us a little bit about your restaurant and/or style of cooking.

Sobo has been called grassroots gourmet by some, but I call it a mom and pop cafe that was set out to feed local healthy, affordable food with morals and ethics before profit margins. I guess now fifteen years after opening a food truck as the original venue, and then being in a typical stand alone restaurant, we have morphed into a seafood and vegetarian eclectic scene. Fifty percent of our guests are locals who have stood beside us since day one April 20, 2003.

Tourists have caught on now so we definitely take them into consideration when creating our menu. We have always supported local, farm fresh food and its wonderful to see so many others following suit. I still talk to Barbara from Nanoose Edibles, Kathy from Outlandish Shellfish and Helen from Basil Olive Oil weekly. It’s connections like these that keep me motivated as it’s otherwise a hard path to stay on. I’m 57 years young and it gets harder to churn it out, but I show up 60 hours a week and cook my ass off. I am not now or never have been an office chef.

Where do you eat in your city?

In my city I eat at home most of the time as I have two kids and a husband, so I’m usually doing the cooking. When I do treat myself to a night out I enjoy Kuma, Wolf in the Fog, Monster Noodle, or the new Tofino Marina and Resort. My go to in Vancouver is Kissa Tanto and Vij’s.

What would be your ideal food day? 

My ideal food day is paddling to Wickaninnish Island and slurping down a few dozen oysters, NAKED. Both me and the oysters! Then my friends and I grab some seaweed, goosenecks, catch a salmon and build a fire and cook this fresh simple food. My friends have a fantastic garden so we have our healthy greens as well. No sauces, or butter; nothing but just REAL FOOD!

What trend do you wish would die?

The trend I wish would dye is KIMCHI and fermented everything . Enough already there is a time and place for such things but not on everything.

What trend/s do you wish would be next?

The trend I wish would be next is clean, vibrant flavours without bells and whistles. I am so old school that I feel like cooking in plastic bags is not good for our bodies, our oceans, our hearts, What’s wrong with fire, water and love, and maybe wine and water.

What ingredient do you always have on hand?

The ingredient I always have on hand is Basil Olive Oil , I could swim in it, eat it, and well, it just has so many other fun adult options.

What’s your go-to recipe when you’re eating at home? 

My go to for home cooking is always a big pile of sturdy greens, seared salmon, and potatoes. I have kids, and they will eat this. Now in saying that, my family is adventurous, but we are low maintenance and  a corn and potato hash with any fish and a big good damn salad never disappoints. A toasted bagel, egg, cheddar, and mayo is not so bad either when you’re just too damn tie]red to pull anything else out of the hat.

What equipment do you wish you had in your kitchen?

In my house I wish I had a dishwasher.


What cookbook would you suggest for a gift for your foodie friends this year?

The cookbook I would recommend would be Lynn Crawford’s Farm to Chef. I’m not saying that because she is my soul sister I’m saying that because it’s beautiful, and it’s Canadian

What wine/beer/libation are you pairing with this year?

We are are pairing with Lock and Worth Rose and I couldn’t be more excited about it. They are kindred spirits in the fact that we like to put the proof in the pudding not the fluff. In saying that I mean our dollars are spent on great ingredients not the pretty little package. It’s sort of like a hotel. You get to the lobby, it’s stunning, you get to the room and well it’s not so good.

What are you cooking?

My dish is seaweed and nettle pasta dough filled with halibut cheeks, poblano chilis, fromage fraish and cipollini onions.  I’m rolling this  into an anglonotti. It will be presented in a smoked halibut hot and sour broth and garnished with roasted forest mushrooms.

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Shelley Robinson Asked How much they actually make per hour, how many hours they work per day and how much good food actually costs, what the “ bottom line” of a small restaurant P and L looks like.

To answer Shelly’s question, I don’t have the nerve to add up what I get paid. I love what I do and I live the life I love. I will never be able to afford world travel and fanciful things but lucky for me happiness can come at a very low sale price. Things like a brilliant sunrise, a peaceful paddle a genuine conversation with my son or a laugh with my little lassie. I’m pretty low maintenance.

I have never had a tattoo, my makeup is probably five years old. I know that is terrible. My husband says the only thing I have ever asked for as a present was a Dyson vacuum. He bought me the Dyson and I LOVE IT!

Over all I choose a crazy career but I love it, I really really love it. I can’t imagine doing anything else and I have had so many wonderful connections with people that I would have never ever had. Lets face it everyone needs to eat so there will always be a way to carve out a living even though its hard as hell on the old body.