B.C.—and Whistler—will be well represented at the forthcoming Canadian Culinary Championship in Ottawa, with Wild Blue’s Jasper Cruickshank beating out a roster of chefs from across the province at last week’s regional qualifier to earn his spot.
Held Oct. 18 at BC Place, Cruickshank and his team faced off against some of the finest chefs B.C. and Vancouver have to offer, going first in the pressure-cooker environment and serving up an elegant seafood dish that celebrated British Columbian wilds and waters for close to 350 guests—including nine judges.
“Luckily enough, since my dish was seafood and paired with white wine, it worked to my advantage in that I got to serve my dish first,” Cruickshank said. “To me, I really enjoyed it in the sense that I got to get it over with and the stress was gone at that point. It took the weight off my shoulders.”
Entitled “The Wild B.C. Experience,” Cruickshank’s dish was inspired by his B.C. upbringing and reverence for local ingredients. It featured a side-stripe shrimp terrine with a daikon parcel filled with leek purée and a leek-wakame tuille, alongside a Dungeness crab tartlet and delicate feuille de brick filled with poached crab and topped with crab espuma, masago rice pearls, and a geoduck reduction. The whole affair was paired with Penticton’s Roche Wines’ traditional pinot gris.
Cruickshank said winning the qualifier “felt amazing” and was a reflection of the immense amount of work, preparation, and feedback he got from his team at Wild Blue.
“All the time and dedication put into creating this dish and getting ready for it, it took months to get to where we were, with many tastings, and minute changes made throughout the whole process,” he said. “I can’t thank my team enough for the support and everything they gave me to push me to put my passion into this competition.”
While no stranger to culinary competitions, it’s been more than a decade since Cruickshank last tested his mettle on the circuit. He said it was at the urging of Wild Blue executive chef Derek Bendig and chef-partner Alex Chen—who Cruickshank has worked with before, including at Vancouver’s award-winning Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar—that he decided to plunge back into competitive cooking.
“They asked me If I’d like to have this opportunity and I looked at it as a good steppingstone to make a mark on the restaurant and my career. It was a good opportunity to push myself and see what I’m capable of alongside some other great chefs,” Cruickshank said.
He added it’s part and parcel with the kind of support Wild Blue has offered its staff since the fine dining restaurant first opened its doors in Whistler Village last summer.
“I like being part of a restaurant that tries to give the best experience possible to the guest as well as the team with the amenities it offers: there’s a staff room where people can hang out with many wine books and cookbooks to read if they want to. Or they can play ping pong, do some yoga stretching, sit on the couch and watch TV. I’ve never worked anywhere before that offered that to its staff.”
Now, Cruickshank and his crew prepare for the Canadian Culinary Championship, slated for Feb. 2 and 3 in Ottawa, which will pit him against qualifying chefs from eight other regions across the country.
“We are already starting to develop what we want to do for the competition, which is a lot more extensive than what we just did,” he said. “We’re working really hard to create our formula to get the win and putting our heads down. We have to start now, not wait until January.”
It's been a banner month for Wild Blue, which was recently named Best New Restaurant in North America at the 2023 World Culinary Awards. “This accolade recognizes the outstanding quality, innovation, and culinary excellence that Wild Blue has brought to the dining scene since opening in 2022,” a release said.