By Waheeda Harris
Born and raised in St. Catharines in the heart of Niagara’s wine region, Jeff Van Geest learned the benefits of local ingredients early on from his grandparents, who were farmers. In 1992, he moved across the country to work as a cook in Vancouver, where he completed culinary training, did an apprenticeship at Bishop’s and in 2004 opened his first restaurant, award-winning, local-food-focused Aurora Bistro, which was fiercely adored by locals.
In 2010—after a stint as executive sous chef at Diva at the Met—Van Geest moved his family to the Okanagan and became executive chef of Miradoro, at the Tinhorn Creek winery in Oliver, BC, recently named one of the world’s best winery restaurants.
Van Geest took some time out of his schedule of dreaming up/executing dishes like spiced lamb merguez sausage with polenta, braised greens and Tiger Blue cheese to answer our weekly Meet the Chef questions.
What speciality dishes or local items do you recommend to visitors of Oliver?
In the summer, eat a peach that’s just been picked and still warm from the summer sun. It’s possibly one of the best food experiences.
What do you love to eat that is simple to make?
A filet of sockeye salmon, rubbed with fresh pesto, served with roasted potatoes and grilled heirloom tomatoes. All done on the barbecue so there are very few dishes to clean up.
Is there a food style or trend that you would be happy to see disappear?
Casual “fine dining” chains selling something that they are not and taking business away from small, independent restaurateurs.
What culinary trend are you happy to see has become popular?
Chefs, customers and home cooks being aware of where their food comes from and how it is produced so they can make educated choices.
What’s your ideal thing to do on a day off from the restaurant?
Spending time with my family, fly fishing and snowboarding.
Name three Canadian restaurants you would recommend and why.
Vancouver’s La Quercia for authentic, well-prepared Italian food. Their handmade pastas are the closest thing to perfection I have ever tasted.
Chambar in Vancouver because they are extremely busy, yet consistently manage to execute great food, drinks and service.
I haven’t been yet, but I have heard great things about Restaurant DNA in Montreal. It’s definitely a restaurant I really want to check out.