Whistler's hospitality sector gives back 

Restaurant Association of Whistler raises over $22,000 for charities at golf tourney

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - GIVING BACK Members of the Restaurant Association of Whistler, Scotiabank and the BC Hospitality Foundation pose with a $5,000 cheque for the non-profit organization that assists hospitality workers throughout the province. (L-R): Brenda Holben, Brenton Smith, Eric Griffith, Faris Ataya, Karen Demoe, Hayley Byrne, Kirsten Reinholz, Kara Decarlo.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • GIVING BACK Members of the Restaurant Association of Whistler, Scotiabank and the BC Hospitality Foundation pose with a $5,000 cheque for the non-profit organization that assists hospitality workers throughout the province. (L-R): Brenda Holben, Brenton Smith, Eric Griffith, Faris Ataya, Karen Demoe, Hayley Byrne, Kirsten Reinholz, Kara Decarlo.

The resort's restaurant community has always been a benevolent bunch, raising thousands of dollars a year for B.C. charities.

But the Restaurant Association of Whistler (RAW) went above and beyond at last month's Joel Thibault Hospitality Cup Golf Tournament — the organization's biggest charity drive of the year — raising over $22,000 for three different organizations, more than doubling the total from 2013.

"It was one of the most satisfying endeavours I've ever taken on," said La Bocca GM Brenton Smith, who was one of the organizers of the tournament this year after taking over for RimRock co-owner Bob Dawson. "I definitely felt like we accomplished a really good thing and I'm looking forward to next year."

Nicklaus North was host to nearly 150 golfers on tournament day, made up of local restaurant management and staff, wine agencies and major suppliers, who amassed roughly $18,000 for the Whistler Food Bank, the BC Cancer Agency and the BC Hospitality Foundation (BCHF). Scotiabank kicked in another $5,000 for the BCHF, a non-profit organization that assists hospitality workers throughout the province in a variety of ways.

"There was actually a girl at Earl's (that the BCHF) helped out this year," explained Alta Bistro owner Eric Griffith, who also helped organize the tournament this year. "She had an accident on her mountain bike and required some extensive cosmetic dental surgery she couldn't afford, and her MSP wouldn't cover it, so the hospitality foundation stepped in to help her."

After shadowing Dawson last summer in the lead-up to the tournament, Griffith said he was amazed at how much work actually goes into organizing a charity golf tournament of this scale. But that hasn't stopped the restaurant association from considering holding another major fundraising event — likely ski-based — in the winter of 2015.

Named in honour of French chef Joel Thibault, who opened one of Whistler's first restaurants, Chez Joel, in the 1970s and lost a long battle with cancer in 2005, the tournament serves as an important connection to Whistler's culinary pioneers. Sadly, the resort lost another stalwart of its hospitality industry last year: Pascal Tiphine, chef and co-founder of Le Gros. But that doesn't mean Whistler's current generation of restaurateur has forgotten about the example they set.

"Joel and Pascal both brought a lot to Whistler in terms of our international reputation, the standards of hospitality here and what's required to be world class, and that's what we continue to strive for in the community," said Griffith, who has many childhood memories of both Thibault and Tiphine, close family friends.

For more information, visit the Restaurant Association of Whistler website at www.restaurantswhistler.com.

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