There is a bounty of wild food to be foraged or caught in and around Tofino, B.C.
Mushrooms grow thick in the surrounding rainforest: porcinis, chanterelles, pine and lobster mushrooms, hedgehogs and blue chanterelles. Along the shoreline, one can find knotweed, land cress and berries. Chinook salmon run unusually rich and fat in local waters. Want Dungeness crab for dinner, or a haul of prawns? Those lucky enough to live there can just drop a pot in the water to catch them. Clams, oysters, geoduck, goose-necked barnacles—all are plentiful on the extreme West Coast.
The publication of The Wickaninnish Cookbook brings ideas and techniques for treating those ingredients, even if they don’t grow in your backyard, to home cooks across the country.
Wickaninnish innkeeper Charles McDiarmid grew up in Tofino, and that was the food his family ate. “We’d walk to the dock to pick up a salmon to barbecue at home,” he says. “We knew many fishermen and providers already.” So when it came time to open The Wickaninnish Inn and The Pointe Restaurant, it just seemed natural to utilize those same ingredients.
We take this idea of fresh, local and seasonal eating for granted now, but in 1996, when the hotel opened, it was something of a novelty, and almost unheard of for a restaurant in Tofino. McDiarmid’s dedication, combined with the phenomenal quality of the products available in the area, turned The Pointe into one of Canada’s great restaurants almost overnight. In the 22 years since, other local chefs— many of whom worked at one time in the Wick’s kitchens—have adopted the same standards. Restaurants like SoBo, Wolf in the Fog, 1909 Kitchen, Kuma and Picnic make Tofino one of the best places to eat in Canada.
The publication of The Wickaninnish Cookbook, complete with its beautiful, bevelled cover designed to exactly replicate the hand-carved beams that adorn the inn, solidifies that reputation. It not only confirms that there is indeed a unique and utterly delicious food movement happening on the westernmost edge of this country, but points the way forward and ensures that its culinary reputation will continue to grow.