Food and Drink 

A raw history of the Whistler restaurant scene The uncensored, unadulterated version

When Chris Quinlan asked me to write a brief, very brief, history of the restaurant scene here on behalf of RAW - that's the Restaurant Association of Whistler, such a clever acronym - for their upcoming guide that soon will be required reading in 6,000 hotel rooms, the first person I thought to call was Florence Petersen.

Florence, our resident keeper of all things historic, started as a weekender at Whistler in the mid-1950s. As usual, she didn't let me down.

To build on her stories, I then phoned Paul and Jane Burrows, who now live in Salmon Arm but whose links to Whistler wind back to the early '70s. To check names, dates and the like, they hauled out old copies of the Whistler Question , which they started, and old phonebooks. Alta Lake, as Whistler was still known in the 1970s, took up two and a half pages, less than Pemberton, which in itself tells a story. But more to the point, they told a lot of good tales.

And therein lies real history, for as we all pieced together "the good ol' days" of restaurants at Whistler - my own stories go back to 1980 - the more we laughed and egged each other on, remembering those amazing, sometimes bewildering moments that can only happen when people of all sorts and all sorts of people get together over a beer or a bottle of wine and some good food. And sometimes stay up way past their bedtimes.

The whole story, of course, is bigger than the sum of its parts. Maybe you can meet me at a local restaurant one day and I'll tell you all about it... In the meantime, here's a raw glimpse, with a toast and many thanks to Paul and Jane and Florence.

* * *

Something happened in the early days of restaurants and eateries at Whistler - something about the mixing of haute cuisine and funky burgers, weekend warriors and local characters, red-checkered tablecloths and elegant wall sconces that's been distilled into the dining experience ever since.

If a restaurant is where you buy food and drink to "restore" yourself, then Whistler's first was Rainbow Lodge on Alta Lake. Lodgers had home-cooked meals included. Those who forgot their lunches on the "picnic trains" rolling up from Vancouver in the 1950s - no roads back then - could buy sandwiches and salads once they got here.

After that, it was the cafeteria and lounge at L'Apres, opened in 1966 by Leo and Soula Katsuris to feed the Garibaldi Lift Company's hungry workers, who were putting up Whistler Mountain's first gondolas at Creekside.

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