Philippe Lavoie works his magic in the kitchen. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Osborne Bay Pub executive chef appeals to music patrons’ tastes

Being part of a creative enterprise suits Lavoie

The Cowichan Valley’s live music destination is appealing to the growing appetite for quality entertainment, but that naturally needs to be complemented by tasty food. That’s Philippe Lavoie’s department.

Lavoie, 55, is a big part of the rebranding at the Osborne Bay Pub in Crofton as executive chef that brings the combination into perfect harmony. He started in the position in mid-May and is fully on board with the concept.

Pub owner Tony van de Mortel, Berry Music Co.’s Patricia Berry and Lavoie were immediately on the same page about what the venue can offer to customers looking for an experience beyond the norm.

“I wanted to work with people I liked,” said Lavoie. “I wanted to be involved with something entrepreneurial. When I interviewed with Patricia and Tony, it clicked.

“That was a big pre-requisite. Then I walked into this room and I really liked this room. They started expanding on what their goal was and these are the words they used: ‘we want a real chef, not just a cook anymore.’”

Lavoie has extensive experience in the industry and has proven to be just the man for the job.

“It always amazes me what he comes up with as a special,” said van de Mortel.

”Everything’s hand-made from scratch,” Lavoie pointed out.

“I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do in this business and I’m very proud of what I’ve done.”

Lavoie’s father was an air force pilot so the family lived in many different places in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. over the years.

“I’m a bit ashamed I haven’t been to the east,” Lavoie chuckled.

He’s been married 20 years, has two sons aged 23 and 13, and lives in Nanaimo after coming up from Victoria 2 1/2 years ago, and now makes the daily commute to Crofton.

Lavoie was in his early 20s when he started in the food industry. “That gives me about 30 years in the business,” he indicated.

The beginnings in Montreal were rather humble, but productive. “I chanced into a pizza business that went really well,” Lavoie explained. “I had a lot of fun, really liked it. Lived large.”

He’s always kept everything in perspective because the process of learning never ends.

“If you think you’re pretty good, I’ve been humbled by entering different types of food service. Every new culinary event is a challenge. It doesn’t matter what it is.”

Lavoie has done fine dining, institutional, fast food and everything in between. “Everything from four people a night to 2,500 a night,” he noted.

Lavoie worked for an oil and gas company in Northern Alberta at a camp north of Fort McMurray that grew to as many as 10,000 people. That was quite an experience with such big numbers, he conceded, after seven years there.

The 15 years he spent at the Blue Crab in Victoria that exploded during his time there has been Lavoie’s biggest claim to fame.

“We did very well,” he said. “I emphasize the team. It’s not me. It’s the team. I’m only as good as my team.”

At the Osborne Bay Pub, he leads a team of four in the kitchen.

“It’s a small team, I used to work with 55 people.”

Lavoie has called upon his creativity and experience to design the menu. Seafood by the seaside is almost a must.

“We do a lot of seafood,” conceded van de Mortel. “Being where we are looking at the water, you should have a good selection of seafood.”

At the same time, $36 a plate entrees are not going to work, said Lavoie.

“We’ve tweaked and adjusted and tightened things up on the menu and it seems to be working,” he stressed. “As the business continues to grow, then our menu and our offerings will adjust accordingly.”

The process after more than four months has been rewarding and “the machine,” as Lavoie calls it, is humming along.

“I love the energy of the live music, we get to listen to these musicians while we’re working.

“What I want to see is the plant blossom, the flower bloom. I want to be part of creating success.

“We’re now serving good food, not apologies anymore.”

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