Like an amateur artist who has finally built up the nerve to showcase their work publicly, Javier O'Dogherty had some anxiety before sharing his paella recipe with the world.
Evidently those nerves were all for naught.
"So far, we haven't had even one bad (piece of) feedback. There are people who leave the paella pan in the morning with a note for us like, 'This was amazing, guys,'" says O'Dogherty. "For me, as you can imagine, that's been very special."
Originally from Madrid, O'Dogherty has teamed up with his wife, Maria Candos, to launch En tu Casa, Whistler's first Spanish food delivery service.
The couple, who first arrived in Whistler six years ago, decided to bring a taste of their homeland to the resort after an earlier business deal fell through. "I was trying to open another company in Whistler with a person who turned out to be really bad to us," O'Dogherty explains. "In the end, we decided to do this on our own, and that's how we pulled all this together."
Since opening several weeks ago out of their Alpine kitchen, Candos and O'Dogherty have earned rave reviews for their home-cooked take on Spanish favourites. The menu features a number of classic tapas, including a selection of imported Iberico meats; boquerones en vinagre, a beloved dish of fresh anchovies marinated in vinegar; and salmorejo, a purée originating in Andalucia made from tomatoes, bread, oil and garlic. But the centrepiece of En tu Casa's offerings is undoubtedly its traditional seafood paella, a national dish that has practically become its own religion in Spain.
O'Dogherty says he has been cooking his family's paella recipe for years, but En tu Casa was the first time he shared it with a wider audience.
"For me, it means everything to bring this to Whistler—and not just the paella," he says. "It's been amazing to show people what we really eat in Spain."
The couple also offers a vegan take on the classic dish that O'Dogherty said he consulted on with chefs from back home in Spain.
"With paella, it's all about the broth," he explains. "I've been talking to chefs back home in Spain ... and they just told me that for a veggie paella, you don't need to make a good broth for it (ahead of time); you make the broth while you are cooking it. We decided to get good veggies and started working on it, and we came up with a really good recipe that we love and people are liking a lot."
Despite its reputation as an international hub, Whistler is still lacking when it comes to food-delivery options. Pizza is the standard go-to, and Whistler Dine In delivers, at a premium, from a number of restaurants in the evenings—but that still leaves a gap to fill in the daytime. (En tu Casa delivers for free on a minimum order of $50.)
"We just realized there was no one doing delivery for lunch, and we decided to go for it," O'Dogherty says.
Having lived here for six years, the couple has also noticed that Whistlerites have an appetite for Spanish cuisine—furthered, at least in part, by the success of Toptable's award-winning tapas bar, Bar Oso. (O'Dogherty says they are good friends with Bar Oso chef—and fellow Madrid native—Jorge Muñoz Santos.)
"We realized that everyone here knows Spain, loves Spain and loves Spanish cuisine," O'Dogherty says. "When we say, 'Hey, we're from Spain,' everyone is like, 'Oh paella! Sangria!'"
So far, En tu Casa has remained an intimate affair, with the couple handling the cooking out of their Needles Drive kitchen, and Candos taking care of the delivery. Given how popular they've been the first few weeks, O'Dogherty, the former GM of El Furniture Warehouse, recognizes they will need to add staff in the near future.
"As soon as we have some people working with us in the kitchen, we will be able to improve the menu and make something even better," he says. "We are super happy that we can do this here in Whistler. This is our home now, and we want to keep it that way for a long time."
For more information, and to order, visit entucasawhistler.com.