Get Stuffed 

Bavarians at the gate

After 16 years of managing Whistler restaurants, Joel Thibault is back in business for himself

While it’s true that you can’t go home again, you can always visit. And in the meantime, you can make your new home feel as much like your old home as possible – if you’re from the alps, for example, you can pour yourself a pint of lager and cook up some schnitzel.

Joel Thibault has been in Canada for 35 years now, landing in Vancouver after spending his previous life in legendary mountain resorts like Chamonix and Le Relais in France.

He first came to Whistler in 1979, when developers were just starting to build Whistler Village. He was initially involved with the group that was breaking ground for the Fitzsimmons building – he wanted to open a restaurant in it – but was forced to pull out due to rising costs and a delay of one year.

Not that he didn’t have anything to fall back on – Chez Joel in Gastown was doing just fine at the time. Still, his heart was in the mountains, and as a veteran of European ski resorts, he saw the potential that Whistler offered.

"With my experience in the Alps, I could see what was going on in Whistler as it was becoming a super resort, and of course, loving the mountain life, I wanted to be involved with that," says Thibault.

Before he moved to Whistler in 1985, Thibault had a go at growing grapes and making wine in the Okanagan from 1983 to 1985. "It didn’t go as I expected. I decided to go back to Whistler to do what I do best, and that’s manage restaurants."

The owners of Stoney’s restaurant, where La Bocca is now, invited Thibault to Whistler to run the place and he jumped at the idea. Because of his success in one of Vancouver’s trendiest dining areas – and out of respect for his reputation – Stoney’s was renamed Chez Joel.

The second Chez Joel served French, German, Austrian, Swiss and Bavarian Alp style food for "ten good years." He then moved to Anasazi (now Las Margaritas) for a little while. Next he got involved with the developers of the Nicklaus North Golf Club, and secured the right to run the restaurant, which is still called Joel’s Restaurant at Nicklaus North.

He stayed there for more than five years – "I had a really great time for five years in a really great spot" – until a little over two months ago when an opportunity presented itself that he could not pass up.

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