Bring on the culinary awards 

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There's something distinctly rewarding about winning an award.

You can ask Derrick Franche of the Brewhouse about this or Franco Corno from Howe Sound Brewing or Bruce Stewart of Nesters Market.

Franche won a B.C. Beer award earlier this month for the India Pale Ale (IPA) he brews at High Mountain Brewing Company located within the Whistler Brewhouse. Five Rings IPA, so named for the Olympic rings that sit next to the Brewhouse at Whistler Olympic Plaza, won first place amongst the top IPA's brewed by small breweries from around the province. This was his best-ever result at the B.C. Beer Awards.

"I like to make a strong IPA," says Franche a few days after learning of his win. "Seven and a half per cent so I know that a lot people like it for that reason, but when you get down to it I think it is pretty hard to tell which one is the best because there's about five, six or seven in the province that are all in the same category."

He says the IPA category is a tough one because there are so many good brews being produced at breweries around the province. He notes also that IPA has a strong flavour and if you are a judge sampling IPA "your palate gets really fatigued quickly" so it is a tough beer to judge after just a few samples.

Franche describes IPA as a real beer lovers' beer that he says the "beer geeks" hold in high regard because it isn't a mainstream beer.

"It is sort of like the alpha kingpin," he says.

"For people who drink IPA that's the only thing they drink because everything else lacks flavour to them."

While Franche won the coveted IPA category his Brown Ale and Northwest Amber Ale failed to crack the top three in their divisions.

Franco Corno, the Brew Master at Howe Sound Brewing, worked with his team in Squamish to reel in a total of three B.C. Beer Award nods for second place finishes.

Four Way Fruit Ale was runner up in the fruit category while Pothole Filler Imperial Stout placed number two amongst the stouts and Gathering Storm was second in the Cascadian Dark Ale category.

For their efforts the brew makers won a trophy and bragging rights.

Nesters scoops national grocery award

The awards this month in Whistler's food world also included significant recognition for Nesters Market.

Seems the place where the locals shop is setting the standard for independent grocery operators across Canada. The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG) named Nesters Market and Pharmacy in Whistler the Canadian Independent Grocer of the Year for the second time in a dozen years. Nesters is in the Small Surface category and won a gold award in that category in addition to being named the grocery store of the year.

General Manager Bruce Stewart says he's proud of the recognition and points out it is consistent with the high regard the store is held in in Whistler. He has a philosophy and he says it sets Nesters apart from other grocery chains.

"I don't look at our stores so much as a grocery, because if I do that it just becomes a grocery store, and it is a lot more to me than that," says the long-time store GM.

He says it is all about entrenching in the community and supporting the community while listening to customers and bringing in the products the customers want in the store.

"Give them ownership to some level of that store," says Stewart. "That's what I take most pride in. There seems to be an ownership of Nesters within the community."

Nesters has created a unique formula that has led to its most faithful customers actually feeling guilty for shopping somewhere else.

The CFIG is a non-profit association that was founded in 1962. It works with more than 400 independent, franchised and specialty grocers across Canada to achieve sustainable success.

The CFIG hosts Grocery Innovations Canada every year and this year it was held Oct. 1 and 2 in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

On top of getting the gold award and top national honours, the store in Whistler was also inducted into the CFIG Hall of Fame. To get into the Hall of Fame a store has to win at least three Gold Awards or receive one Platinum Achievement Award and a Gold Award.

A respected retail management expert checked out the stores nominated for the CFIG awards and judged each outlet on retailing excellence and innovation, team performance, customer service, space utilization, freshness and cleanliness.

"Nesters has truly captivated the imagination of Whistler and surrounding area," said John F.T. Scott, the President and CEO of CFIG. "Unlike other stores in the area, Nesters carries a great selection of health food, gourmet, organic and specialty products that have been very well received by the local community."

Stewart credits the success of the operation to the hard work of Ian Fairweather and the staff at the Whistler store.

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