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June 2010 E newsletter

inntouch newsletter master  June 2010 E newsletter
Last month Sinclair and I received the Lifetime
Achievement Award  from Vancouver Magazine! My first reaction was Oh! No… it
is confirmed, I am old. We bought the Sooke Harbour House in 1979, I was 32
years old, Sinclair was 33; now at 62 and still thinking the way I did in 1979!

1978 June 2010 E newsletter This award
made me think of these past 31 years, and reflect on all the things that
happened, all the people we met, our children born, all the projects we did;
our mistakes but also our small successes. Our intention was never to become
famous and for me even not to seek awards. My focus and why I wanted to have a
business was to create with our staff something good, a good local restaurant,
a nice place to stay with as much art as possible around us and employ as many
people as possible. A simple idea it seemed! I see having a business as an opportunity to increase the recycling of the money and a benefit to the community. The more money we make the more people can benefit from it: our families, our staff, our suppliers, local producers and farmers, artists and craftsmen.

What memories and how did all of this actually happened in what seems such a short

20002copy June 2010 E newsletter We started
in 1979 with what most writers always called the little white clapboard farm
house with its five small rooms upstairs without private bathrooms for the
guests and both of us with our two children then in the basement, our small but
practical living quarters. We had just a few staff members. A day meant working
from early in the morning to late at night for Sinclair and I doing front desk,
housekeeping, gardening, leaving the kitchen to our wonderful chef Pia Carroll
and a helper.

SPandPia June 2010 E newsletter
Our vision
at that time was to have a large vegetable garden, rely on the fishermen, the
foragers and local farmers and try to buy as little as possible from big food
corporations and as much as possible from local suppliers. We wanted to be sustainable and without expressing it the way you
see it nowadays: have a very small foot print on this planet! Were we idealists? Yes and still are. It was
a very simple idea for us: to cook local, seasonal and fresh food. To have
cabinet makers built the furniture we needed (Rusty Sage from Sage Woodcrafters, you have likely sat in one of his chairs in the dining room or slept in one of the beds he made and Rob Martin, who created amazing tree-bed in Ravens Nest room. ) for the hotel with local woods, to
hang on the walls only art from local artists. My French accent sometimes meant that people thought we were a French
restaurant! My first surprise was to not be able to go to a public market to
buy the produce we didn’t grow, to have difficulties buying directly fresh seafood
from the local fishermen or to have staff members that didn’t know what
eggplants were or could not find the fresh spinach in the fridge because it was
not a square box from the freezer!
FP SP June 2010 E newsletter

For me the lack of cheeses (other than
Cheddar), good bread, non sliced, and of cheap good local red wines ( I didn’t
drink white wine) and that I had to open the restaurant at 5:00 pm were a few
of the cultural differences I had to become accustomed to.

Sinclair started a large vegetable garden, and his research on edible flowers.

firstgarden June 2010 E newsletter

This is
when we decided to grow a garden where every plant and tree had to have an
edible component. We were fortunate to become friends with Nancy Turner and
learn all about the culinary habits of our Sooke First Nation and what they
foraged from the wild. Over the years we have had wonderful gardeners, in the last
seventeen years the gardens have been well cared for by our Head Gardener Byron
. We also became friends with the Newman family in Sooke (Blue Raven
Gallery) and learned more about the First Nation culture and their incredibly
powerful art. In 2007 Carey Newman carved for our family a tall totem pole, it
was erected in the traditional way, a very special event!

dsc 1614 June 2010 E newsletter

This winter
we decided to expand our gardens and grow more intensively on the one and a half
acres we lease up the road, property that used to be Sooke Harbour House in the
late twenties. We have a chicken coop and good soil, have planted a lot of
diverse crops, what we need now is good weather and more warmth!!

We bought
the Sooke Harbour House and became innkeepers overnight with a very good vision
of what we wanted to do but without any professional knowledge of the
hospitality industry or how to run a restaurant. I often say that ignorance is
blessed because I never thought that our little bed and breakfast and restaurant
would fail. Hard work and a simple but clear vision was all that was needed for
success, I thought. Knowing what I know now, I would have hesitated more and
been more fearful! We had a roof over our heads and a good restaurant to feed
ourselves very well, the rest was just work, work and more work and thinking of
ways to make a go of this adventure. We were young and had loads of energy.

these thirty one years we have met incredible people, eccentric characters like
Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, well known actors ( from Robert De Niro,
Richard Gere and then wife Cindy Crawford, Angela Lansbury to Jody Foster and
Patrick Dempsey), politicians ( we served lunch to Valery Giscard D’Estaing once
president of France, Mike Harcourt, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson )
, caring personalities (Llama Tashi in Victoria), great athletes Silken
Laumann, Media personalities as passionate about food and wines as we are :
Johnny Apple from the New York Times, Vicki Gabereau, experienced innkeepers, wonderful
knowledgeable professionals and entrepreneurs, and such a great numbers of
guests that are now our friends. We were so fortunate to be able to converse
with everyone of our guests famous, not famous and debate on so many different
subjects, having the best times in front of the fireplace in the dining room,
These conversations usually happened after a long day of work, the best part of
the day, the best reward, the best luxury of all : good conversations with
interesting people and a glass of Calvados for me!

We started
one of the first Slow Food Convivial on Vancouver Island; expanded Sooke
Harbour House into one of the largest galleries on Vancouver
Island. Sinclair with his passionate research on local wines,
manage to have our restaurant receive the glamorous Grand Award from the Wine
Spectator, only less than a hundred restaurants in the world receive this

We had lots
of funny episodes that make the English series Fawlty Towers
with John Cleese look like a documentary, it really does! We always were able to attract an
incredible number of young passionate cooks and budding chefs, most of them now
running famous restaurants all over the world. Michael Stadtländer now chef
owner of Eigensinn Farm in Ontario, James Walt now at Araxi, Peter Zambri
starting a new adventure with a larger restaurant opening this July not very
far from his Zambri’s location in Victoria, Ron Cherry, Rene Fieger now owner of a small restaurant in France
with one Michelin Star, Rhonda Vianni and her wonderful desserts now at West in
Vancouver,Pia Carroll now head of the
unique and exceptional Culinary Program at our local high school, Brock
, David Feys owner now of famous Feys and Hobbs in Victoria and so many
more. We were fortunate enough to work every day at something we were passionate

juliachild June 2010 E newsletter Sinclair Philip, Patricia Wells, Julia Child

We couldn’t
have done it without every one of our staff members, now family, a large number
have been with us from the beginning like artist server Linda Danielson! With
the help of everyone among our staff members, we were able to create, to take
any idea we had to fruition. We went through hard times but what we received
back what so much more. To see happy smiles, contented customers every day, a
good team at work has no price. All the stress, the worries, the doubts are

brochures small June 2010 E newsletter

I discovered
my true passion during the three renovations and expansions we did at Sooke
Harbour House: building and designing with artists to create a welcoming,
soothing and beautiful place for everyone to enjoy. From 1986 when we built ten
additional rooms, with 1988 when we gutted the upstairs of the old house to 1997 when we joined the two buildings and
added fifteen rooms, we transformed the little Bed & Breakfast into a small
twenty eight room boutique hotel still preserving the quaint charm of the
beginning….. I think!
family spent 16 years in the basement of Sooke Harbour House (now the
wine cellar), then rented Malahat Farm for a few years and later the
Manor house on Deerlepe, and finally in 2003 we purchased a small house
by the ocean in Sooke. I was then able to put my love of renovation and
building to task.

FredsHouse June 2010 E newsletter

We raised
four children, have two grand children, went through the heartache of losing
our beautiful Nishka in April 2009 – here you can read her short biography that
she had to do for university; what being raised in a hotel restaurant meant to
her littlehearts June 2010 E newsletter
And now we are older with all the fantastic memories of three very full
decades. What will the next three bring us?

Do we still
have the same energy? Maybe a little bit
less! Do we have the same passion, definitively! Do we still think the way we
did when we were in our thirties? Doesn’t every one do that? Do we still have
lots of ideas and projects we want to do…. Too many to write down here!!

We adapt as
well as we can to this evolving world, to that feeling that life was easier
before even when we worked more, I guess this is a sign that we are growing

We want to
thank you for your patronage over these thirty one years; we hope you will join
us for the next thirty years! We want to invite you, if you have not been to
Sooke Harbour House and are reading this newsletter, to take the time to visit
us, to taste a little corner of paradise! It is a corner of paradise with
pristine wilderness, wild life, clean
air, lush landscape, quietness and natural beauty.

The greatest
luxury in life is time, savour every minute with us here on Vancouver


Co-owner, Creative Director

FP  SP June 2010 E newsletter

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