Archive for April, 2013

Steveston’s Top Chef: Kayla Dhaliwall

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Chef Kayla Dhaliwall (28) may very well be Steveston’s hottest secret weapon, and 2013 is certainly her year to shine. This is the well-deserved year that ‘our’ secret weapon will be introduced to Canadian households from coast to coast, as viewers tune in to watch season three of Top Chef Canada.

Dhaliwall is one of 16 chefs competing for the title of Top Chef. This season’s culinary showdown promises heightened drama and larger personalities, plus more cutthroat competition than ever before, as chefs’ culinary skills and creativity are tested in a variety of unique challenges.

Lucky Steveston. Dhaliwall is Tapenade Bistro’s new Executive Chef, a.k.a. “Dragon Chef” as her business card reads. She joined the award-winning restaurant in January and is eager to introduce Tapenade’s clients to her favourite nouveau comfort foods.

Dhaliwall exudes authenticity, with a humble yet confident nature. When you watch her online audition tape for Top Chef Canada you get a snapshot of the spirit behind this self-proclaimed “black sheep” who has faced adversity. Dhaliwall openly admits that she is a former alcoholic and has not had a drink in four years. She is someone you feel drawn to; you really want to cheer for her.

Dhaliwall is driven to prepare food that strikes emotion and evokes memory. She ‘lives to cook’ which she is quick to point out differs significantly from she ‘cooks to live’.  Her life revolves around food, as she cooks for Tapenade Bistro, visits other restaurants, reads cookbooks, and shops for kitchen equipment.

Tapenade Bistro owner, Vince Morlet says “Kayla brings her own flavour and a jolt of energy to the Tapenade team, and definitely has a passion for food and the business beyond what most people in this industry can imagine.” The restaurant still delivers the high level food and service for which they are reputed; however the main difference is the new chef’s highly approachable menu. Gone are the words that people cannot pronounce.The food is bursting with flavour and has a broader appeal. As an example, the new brunch menu features items Morlet would not have previously considered such as Chicken and Waffles, and Huevos Rancheros.

Morlet proudly states, “Kayla has helped us think outside of the box to feature food that we dismissed as not our style.” Her philosophy towards food is very clear; simple and elegant food cooked with proper technique and passion.

Born and bred in Victoria, Dhaliwall has always had a deep and intimate relationship with food. Her interest in cooking began when she was four years old, watching her grandmother at work in the kitchen. It is apparent that her love and admiration for her grandmother is deep. It was Dhaliwall’s childhood dream to be a chef and to feed many people around the world, and this passion has transcended into her dishes.

Her first job was at age 17 as a breakfast cook in a retirement home. Dhaliwall grins when she reveals that she was quickly demoted to janitor, as rubbery scrambled eggs were not her specialty. However, this did not deter her as she went on to attend and graduate from the Culinary Arts Program at Vancouver Community College. She then gained experience working in an array of diner, restaurant and hotel establishments that include Saturna Island Vineyard Bistro, Deacon’s Corner, Wild Rice and the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. Dhaliwall spends some of her free time sharing her expertise at H.A.V.E. Cafe in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside.

Top Chef Canada isn’t Dhaliwall’s first culinary competition. She participated in two other competitions in 2010, the Best of the West where she represented the Fairmont Team, and in Top Junior Chef of B.C. in Kelowna.

While the chef is sworn to secrecy regarding the outcome of Top Chef Canada, which was filmed last summer in Toronto, it was her dream to participate in this high profile competition. Dhaliwall was originally a fan of the American version, and has watched the two previous seasons of Top Chef Canada. She can reveal that the days were incredibly long, beginning at 6 a.m. and often ending at 1 a.m. All of the competitors lived together during filming, and she has a new respect and understanding for the other chefs. They cooked in a television studio kitchen that was similar in size to a football field, which meant a lot of running around in an unfamiliar kitchen, with competition for grill and stove space. And yes, it was a dramatic and cutthroat experience.

Steveston is behind ‘Team Kayla’ as we cheer on our Dragon Chef and await the news of who will be awarded the title of Top Chef. In the meantime, head to Tapenade Bistro and sample her food made with commitment and love.

Top Chef Canada airs Mondays at 10pm on the Food Network.

Tapenade Bistro

3711 Bayview Street, Steveston Village

Richmond BC


Pajo’s: A Steveston Anchor Since 1985

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

There are few things as quintessentially Steveston as enjoying a fish and chips meal at Pajo’s by the water, and if all goes well weather-wise a spectacular sunset caps off the experience.

In 1985 Pajo’s owner and founder Patricia Branch and her former business partner, Joan Whettlaufer, set out to serve the finest fish and chips in the West. The name Pajo’s originated by blending the partner’s first names together.

Patricia Branch’s husband Larry, who was a fisherman for many years, envisioned uniting his livelihood with the fishing village, with the goal of creating a new draw for the community with dockside dining. Patricia Branch was the mastermind behind Pajo’s timeless top-secret recipes, including the legendary tartar sauce and tempura style batter. She worked many long hours in the early years running the business. The Branch’s goal to connect Steveston’s waterfront with the fishing industry certainly came to fruition.

The original wharf side restaurant is situated roughly in the same location as when it opened in 1985. Subsequently, Pajo’s has expanded and now boasts four locations including Garry Point, Coquitlam and Port Moody.

Andrew Stokes has worked for the business for the past year as director of operations. His role is to look for opportunities to grow the company while maintaining the charm of Pajo’s and the company’s core family values. He points out that Pajo’s is a business with strong “family glue” which has yielded incredible staff loyalty. In many cases employees have started working at the restaurant in their high school years and continue on well into their 20s.

It appears that this family owned business couldn’t have hired a better-suited man for the job. Like Pajo’s Wharf manager Tia Litz, who started as a cashier and has been with the business for 24 years, Stokes has also worked his way up the ladder in the restaurant industry. His first teenage job was with Pizza Hut where he eventually became an area manager. He also worked as a Starbucks district manager and owned a home and garden retail shop in Cumberland on Vancouver Island for a number of years.

Pajo’s is striving for Ocean Wise certification as part of their commitment to serving local and sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood. They are also making the transition to environmentally friendly products such as compostable paper rather than Styrofoam, and all the while striving to provide great food in their scenic “Kodak moment” locations.

While many of us are familiar with Pajo’s there may be a few things that you may not know, like the special rate that is offered for groups of twelve or more that allows pre-ordering to eliminate delays. So round up your posse and indulge. New this year at the wharf location, outdoor patio heaters have been introduced to help take the chill away on cooler days by the water.

Pajo’s is actively philanthropic and is committed to giving back to the community. They support Nite of Hope, a fundraiser benefiting the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. In addition, Pajo’s donates to high school bursaries, and their staff volunteers at events including the Nite of Hope and the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

Stokes describes Pajo’s wharf location as “a food truck without wheels” with its innovative approach to introducing new menu items and attracting a similar customer base seeking these options. This includes offering healthier options, such as a roasted garlic salmon Caesar salad with Pajo’s batter crunch. In addition, this year brings a fresh and fun zesty fish taco which will be rooted in Pajo’s history, as the sea is always at the heart of menu development.  Stokes mentions that the fish chowder has been given a makeover, as all good fish and chips restaurants should be reputed for their chowder. Also under consideration are some new hot dog ideas with a seaside twist.

Patricia Branch points out that the true success of Pajo’s is “the people who take pride in and love the work they do, and produce the product that our customers keep coming back for.”

If Patricia Branch could have looked into a crystal ball, never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined that “In the spring of 1985 as we towed our Pajo’s building down the river from Trites Marine in Paramount Pond where it had been built, that the name Pajo’s would become synonymous with Steveston.”

Pajo’s recently received the honour of being voted amongst the best fish and chips in the country by Canadian Living Magazine readers (April 2013 issue), but as Stevestonites we have been ‘in the know’ for 28 years.

Bare Basics Lingerie: From Feminine to Flirty

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Steveston is known for its many unique stores and boutiques, which pleases shoppers of every ilk. Flashback to 1986 when opening a lingerie shop on Moncton Street was a whole other kettle of fish. This was a cutting edge concept in a fishing community laced with marine supply stores, not women’s undergarments, and it was a risk for Bare Basics Lingerie owner Sandy Hosein.

Hosein knew little about running a business, yet she was motivated by the fact that there was nowhere in the village to purchase a bra. Being a go-getter, she was determined to do something about it. Ingrid Misslinger, longtime friend of Hosein, and owner of Steveston’s Seas on Shore clothing store, encouraged her to open Bare Basics on the upper floor of the Hepworth building where Seas on Shore was originally located.

Bare Basics began as a small shop, and Hosein is grateful to the vendors who took a leap of faith and assisted her in the early days. Hosein had her finger on the pulse of the community as they enthusiastically supported Bare Basics, and before long she was able to purchase from numerous suppliers. The ‘little store that could’ was soon on the move to a bigger space, and relocated where Steveston Coffee Company currently resides. The business continued to succeed and grow, and the need for additional square footage saw a final move to the current location of Bare Basics.

In the early days Hosein’s daughters, Nicole and Michelle began helping at the store when they were a mere 11 and 13 years of age, and Hosein’s mum also leant a hand.  Nicole Hosein-Stoltz now runs the Point Grey location of Bare Basics that opened in 2003. Sandy Hosein is incredibly proud of her talented daughter who is responsible for many of the fabulous window displays at the Steveston location. Not only does Hosein-Stoltz dream up the concepts, but she also builds many of the props and installs the windows. Although her daughter Michelle lives in Toronto, she continues to manage the company’s Facebook presence.

While products and trends have changed over the past 27 years, one thing that has remained constant is the professional and caring service that this family-run business offers clients. Hosein takes pride in the fact that “Bare Basics is not only a bra shop. That philosophy has kept clients coming back to us.” The bra fitting experts include long-time manager Arlene Beck who is responsible for the daily operation of the Steveston shop.

Bras continue to be the backbone of Bare Basics. Renowned for their expert fittings, and their caring professionals, Bare Basics is committed to providing high-quality, accessible lingerie. Hosein believes every woman deserves to feel beautiful, supported and comfortable in her bra. Whether you are a bride-to-be or a nursing mum, recovering from surgery or updating your bra wardrobe, Bare Basics has the bra for you.

There was once a larger market for bridal lingerie including chiffon peignoirs, chemises and silk gowns with matching coats. Hosein says that while Bare Basics still sells a lot of these items, they have found that clients prefer cute cotton pajamas and soft subtle fabrics in nightgowns and chemises.

You may not be aware that Bare Basics offers bra fittings for women who have had a lumpectomy, mastectomy or reconstruction. “One of the most rewarding parts of being a bra fitter is fitting a prosthesis. What never ceases to amaze all of the Bare Basics staff members is the positive attitude women have and how appreciative they are with a perfect fit. We’ve all had more than one kiss after a fitting” says Hosein.

Bare Basics is proud to give back to the community through charities that make a difference in women’s lives. They have been involved for many years as a sponsor of the Nite of Hope in support of research to eradicate breast cancer.  They also support The Cinderella Project, which is an extremely fulfilling organization that helps dreams come true for deserving high school graduates.

Bare Basics fits and gifts these girls with the perfect undergarment to complement their graduation dress. Just in time for spring the store has introduced high-end couture swimwear made by Shan, a Canadian company. Shan swimwear is known for being figure flattering, well constructed, and made from quality fabric with excellent colour retention.  When on vacation recently, Hosein wore one of the swimsuits and was very impressed.


From flannel to lace, from feminine to flirty, Bare Basics has got you covered from the time you get dressed until you hop into bed.

3871 Moncton Street



Rites of Passage

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

By Sarah Gordon.

I was a bit of a dichotomy as a child, too shy to join Brownies, yet fascinated by my friends’ Brownie dresses with badges lovingly stitched onto their right sleeves which spoke of work and adventure, and their little purses strapped onto belts where weekly dues were stashed. I lived vicariously through my friends, and like a good reporter asked many questions about what went on at meetings and how badges were earned. Most interesting of all, like a crow attracted to shiny objects, I was transfixed by the gold pixie enrolment pin. I admired my friends tremendously for bravely participating in something as epic as the transformation of a human into a Brown Owl.

Four years ago, better late than never, I became a leader with a Steveston Brownie unit. My story is familiar to many girls, as I like to tell it leading up to the enrolment ceremony, where I have had the honour of pinning the gold pixie on many sashes.  It is a rite of passage to wear this pin, which is symbolic of belonging to such a well-respected international organization, and I remind the girls that the pin will forever be a reminder of pride and accomplishment.

I began to understand the true importance of ceremonies when I was in university. I had no intention of attending my convocation, as I was not interested in pomp and circumstance.  It was one of my anthropology professors, Dr. Kenelm Burridge, who convinced me that a ceremony of this magnitude was a rite of passage in our society, and was something not to be missed. I attended the big day, realizing that he was correct, as this was indeed a once in a lifetime occasion marking a significant accomplishment, and it also gave my mum a chance to witness the conclusion of my education.

Each year during the magical moment when the Brownies earn their pin, I think of my professor, knowing that one day some of the girls’ sashes, laden with badges celebrating their achievements, will be pulled out and stories will be shared about those formative ‘wonder’ years.

Through the course of our lives we experience a number of life-changing moments, which are grounds for gathering an audience to bear witness to our accomplishments whether they are religious initiations, graduation ceremonies, birthdays, engagements, weddings, and finally, the most sacred ceremony of all, funerals, to celebrate and pay homage to a life well lived.

Thanks to the sage advice of Dr. Burridge, I believe strongly in bearing witness to these important moments. If a ceremony is held in your honour, embrace those sweet moments when the spotlight shines on you, and enjoy a little pomp and circumstance.