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Museum Musings: Cooking at Mons

The Cookhouse operated as a seasonal restaurant, opening in the spring and then closing in November.
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The Cookhouse was a much-loved, seasonal restaurant in Whistler that operated from 1978 to 1981. It was so popular that it didn’t advertise its spring openings for fear of being overwhelmed.

While a disused logging camp may not seem like the most likely place to find a great meal, that is exactly what could be found at Mons crossing from 1978 to 1981. The Cookhouse, described as a “little hut by the tracks” opened in June 1978 to provide breakfast and lunch to local contractors, workers, and any residents or visitors who chose to stop by.

Everett Valleau moved Valleau Logging Ltd. to the Alta Lake and Green Lake areas in 1955.  The company was a family affair, with Everett’s sons Laurance, Eugene, Bob, Howard, Ron and Lindsay all working there. Over the years, at least 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren would also work for Valleau Logging Ltd. 

As Whistler Mountain, and then the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), grew, the Valleaus expanded their business to include excavation work, road building, and more. They established a logging camp at Mons near the railway and offered space to the community to build a firehall, operate a post office, play horseshoes, and even paved an area for ice-stock sliding. The logging camp was in use until the Valleaus decided to move their business to Pemberton in the 1970s.

In 1978, the RMOW granted Jan Systad and Helene Allen temporary permission to operate the camp’s cookhouse as a homemade breakfast and lunch food service. Before they could open, however, the building needed some work done. The building inspector reported that the interior of the building required a thorough cleaning, the installation of two fire extinguishers and a new sink, and repairs for the rear porch in order to make it the main entrance instead of having customers enter through the kitchen.

Given these changes, the health inspector gave the business the go ahead.

From accounts we’ve seen, the Cookhouse was a big success with Whistler residents. In August 1978 the Whistler Question food column called the Cookhouse’s pancakes “a dream” and “a perfect cure for the Monday morning blues,” describing them as “light and fluffy with a deep, rich flavour … served last week with a pinch of raspberry and maple syrup.”

The Cookhouse operated as a seasonal restaurant, opening in the spring and then closing in November. With no social media, opening and closing dates travelled partially by word of mouth. In 1979, Question staff and other hungry customers arrived at the Cookhouse only to find that it had been closed for the season since the Friday before. 

When the Cookhouse opened back up in April 1980, it reportedly opened “with an air of secrecy about the operation.” Systad and her assistant Donna (if anyone knows Donna’s last name, please let us know!) told the Question that they “didn’t want to get overwhelmed on a Monday morning by a crowd whipped into a home-cooking frenzy due to advertising,” instead, opting for a slower start as word of its opening was passed around Whistler. 

Despite the lack of formal advertising, there was a steady stream of customers at the Cookhouse, a testament to the quality of the food.

The Cookhouse only operated for four years before closing permanently in November 1981. Beginning in January 1982, however, Systad continued to serve her “much-sought after home-cooked goodies” from the Husky in today’s Creekside. She also took over the operation of the deli, grocery store, and laundry facilities at the Husky. The buildings from the Valleau logging camp, including the Cookhouse, were removed from Mons and the area grew into the industrial centre it is today.