Nik Milonas: Executive Chef of The Cridge Seniors Village Centre
When it comes to food there’s nothing better than something that is raised, harvested or produced locally. The benefits in procuring local ingredients for your table are many. To begin with, you help support our local community and economy. From agriculture to hospitality to the retail food market, the jobs are many and keeping them here ensures not only a viable local economy but also our welfare. Secondly the food is of the highest quality: it hasn’t traveled very far therefore it retains its freshness and nutrition longer, making it taste better. You also help support biodiversity because our farmers are able to grow several varieties that are specific to our region. They all work in balance with our environment and thereby produce some exceptional products.
We are lucky to live in British Columbia where a temperate climate produces a wide range of diverse crops from apples and pears in the fall, berries and cherries in the summer to grapes that are being used to make top quality wines. Besides crops, there are local chicken farmers in Metchosin and Sooke, and in the Cowichan Valley along with local ranches that raise cattle, pigs and turkeys.
Chefs everywhere have an ethical responsibility in the management of our food supply because they buy in bulk which has a global impact on our food chain. For me, building relationships with people who grow our food is absolutely essential in providing healthy nutritious meals to everyone at The Cridge Village Seniors Centre. So sustainability is a key element in the choices we make when it comes to creating our menus and purchasing our food. This has become the trend, especially over the last ten years, as more people insist not only on excellent value but recognize the role nutrition has on our health and the environment. Many of the restaurants and hotels in Victoria feature local products, recognizing the customers demand for domestic, fresh, artisan made products. I’ve been fortunate enough to build some strong relationships with many local producers, like Cowichan Valley Meat Market who have a large store in Duncan and a family farm in Chemainus. They really take pride in how they raise their animals. They are free of antibiotics and growth hormones, and are allowed to graze on large pastures living in balance with nature. You can really taste the difference.
Another local supplier is Gavin’s Fresh Herbs who absolutely loves his craft and grows amazingly fragrant and beautiful plants. Sysco supplies us with all our seafood, primarily from Ocean Wise. This is a program set up by the Vancouver Aquarium to conserve, educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Next time you’re in the grocery store, look for their logo. Saanich Organics is a co-operative farming community that supplies us with some produce during the spring, summer and autumn seasons. You will find their farmers selling amazingly beautiful and delicious produce at the Moss St. Market and the Victoria Public Market, as well as various other markets. Along with GFS, Sysco and Islands West Produce we are able to acquire high quality products for the best value that we can offer our residents, guests and staff. I encourage you to make an effort and build relationships with your butcher, your baker and your farmer; I guarantee you a really tasty experience that you can feel great about!