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Jacob Richler’s West Coast Fishing Club Diary: Day 1

Our Canada’s 100 Best’s  Editor-in-Chief Jacob Richler is an avid fisherman and self-described West Coast Fishing Club addict. Which is why their annual David Hawksworth & Friends Culinary Adventure has become his favourite week of the summer.

This four-day trip to the Clubhouse on Langara Island, in the Northern reaches of the Haida Gwaii, pairs the world’s best Pacific salmon fishing with great meals – and cooking demonstrations – from our country’s finest chefs. Namesake attraction David Hawksworth, for starters. Then, Canada’s 100 Best delivers their top-ranked chef – this year and last, Normand Laprise of Toqué!.  Regular “Friends” include chef Dino Renaerts, Wine Australia’s North American ambassador Mark Davidson – and others.

The week also features daily  cooking classes where David pairs his European-trained cooking  skills with a deep appreciation for the finest Pacific Northwest ingredients.

Here’s a look at Day 1 one of the 3 spectacular days he spent in fishing (and eating) heaven at the club’s 10th annual Culinary Adventure in July.

Day 1: A decade had passed since chef David Hawksworth first packed up his mobile haute cuisine bag of tricks – along with a few crates of labour-intensive mise-en-place – and hopped a flight north, to Langara Island, so that the forty anglers contentedly lodged there at The Clubhouse could cap a day’s excellent fishing with an evening’s equally excellent dining. Hawksworth has kept this up and done it again every summer since. The 10th anniversary begged acknowledgement. And as Brian Grange saw things, this would best take the form of a private jet.

west coast fishing club

Next stop Masset, Haida Gwaii.

West Coast Culinary One we dubbed it. And why not? In row two, there was guest chef Derek Dammann, from Montreal’s celebrated gastro pub Maison Publique, as well as cookbook author and TV chef Valentine Warner (What to Eat Now, on BBC Two). Further back, there was Canada’s 100 Best two-time 1st place finisher Normand Laprise (from Montreal’s Toqué!), along with his wife Sophie. There were three Hawksworths (père, mère, et fils), select friends, Legges and Granges, Jack Charles – who was all but certain that he’d been there for ten years straight – and yes, Derek Nyrose, who from 9 am on could be found in the in-flight kitchen, obligingly turning out mimosas.

West Coast Fishing Club

Featured guest chefs gather on the back deck: Dino Renaerts, Derek Dammann, David Hawksworth, Normand Laprise and Valentine Warner.

Fortunately, jet propulsion shortened our flying time (read, drinking time) to little over an hour. So before the morning was out all 20 of us arrived at The Clubhouse energy intact and primed for fishing.

West Coast Fishing Club

Warm welcome at The Clubhouse.

But with a caveat. When we arrived the previous trip’s fish board was still posted on the screen in the lounge and its accounting did not inspire. The fishing had been tough – and Terry Cowan warned that we should expect more of the same.

No matter. After a quick fix of baked ham and eggs, by one pm we were on the water to see for ourselves. Well, some of us anyway: me, the irrepressible Sophie Laprise, and big Derek Dammann headed out while chef Normand Laprise stayed behind to work on that night’s meal.

West Coast Fishing Club

Normand Laprise meticulously plating his scallops.

The wind and chop were up. It had been over a week since anyone had fished Langara’s open ocean-exposed west side. All the same we made a valiant run North for Langara Rocks – then stopped just shy due to the daunting swells, and doubled back to have a go at MacPherson Point. Then we had a stab at Andrews, and next, Cohoe Point.

The bite was not on.

Still, come day’s end Derek had pulled in a perfect eating Chinook (18 pounds) and we also had three Coho in the boat. Back at The Clubhouse, over drinks in the lounge, we watched the fish board slowly fill in. Remarkably, Derek’s spring was the third biggest of a mere nine pulled in that afternoon.

West Coast Fishing Club

But the day boasted other consolations. Namely, chef Laprise had been more productive with his time than we had – and soon enough, we were settled in at the dinner table, savouring his efforts. The meal began with a Toqué! classic: raw Princess scallops from the Magdalen islands served on the shell in their refreshing rhubarb water marinade, topped with tarragon-spiked strawberry foam.

Raw Princess scallops form the Magdalen islands, served on the shell in their refreshing rhubarb water marinade, topped with tarragon-spiked strawberry foam.

Then we got a Laprise take on the classic combination of lobster and corn – the lobster lightly poached, set a frothed sweet corn purée studded with peas and pickled chanterelles.

lobsterNext we got roast saddle and braised shoulder of delicate, young Rimouski lamb, with baby carrot and a stunning lamb jus.

Still, much of the evening’s appreciative talk swirled around Laprise’s cream puff, its crisp pastry full to bursting with white chocolate mousse and sweet fresh raspberries.


Stay tuned for Day 2 tomorrow.

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