No Chinese restaurants in Whistler? No problem! 

WChinese is a new delivery service bringing Canadian-Chinese classics right to your door

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK - Chinese to go WChinese is a new food delivery and pick-up service aimed at Whistler locals.
  • Shutterstock
  • Chinese to go WChinese is a new food delivery and pick-up service aimed at Whistler locals.

Whistler's Chinese food desert just got a little smaller.

John Kwai, a former restaurateur in his native China, has launched WChinese, a delivery and pickup service based in Function Junction, offering a glimmer of hope to local Chinese-food junkies who would, until recently, have had to venture outside of Whistler to get their fix.

"It's hard to find a location here in Whistler," said Kwai, which explains why he is running the kitchen out of a small office on Millar Creek Road that doubles as the homebase for his other company, shuttle service Whistler Van.

"It's almost impossible because the rent is so high and there are no locations available. I think this is a good way to open a small restaurant first that only does delivery and to-go orders."

Whistler has been without a dedicated Chinese restaurant since Gold Leaf closed down in Marketplace several years ago, although the Spring Roll Lady, a.k.a. Michele Bush, currently offers a variety of Chinese meal options that are prepared beforehand or in the customer's home.

In a country that counts Chinese restaurants everywhere from the sprawling metropolis to the one-horse town, it's curious why Whistler has been unable to sustain one for very long. Curious, that is, until you factor in, as Kwai mentioned, the high cost of commercial rent, a deathknell for the kind of low-cost, high-volume approach that most Chinese takeout restaurants employ, combined with a lack of affordable staff housing.

Why, Kwai asked, would a chef take the risk of relocating to Whistler when one of the world's meccas for Asian food is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive away?

"There are so many (Chinese) restaurants in Richmond, so if they are a good cook, they can find a job easily," he said. "You don't have to come to Whistler and pay high rent."

The menu will stick to the longheld staples of Canadian-Chinese cuisine: chop suey, fried rice, sweet and sour pork, maybe a deep-fried prawn here and there. Kwai said the restaurant would also offer a number of "Marco Polo" specials: Classic Italian dishes he learned while working in the kitchen of a spaghetti restaurant. He added that there will also be a $9.99 lunch combo for locals.

The key to his business, Kwai said, will simply be to listen to his client base.

"I always say the customer is always right because the customer will tell you what you have to do," he said. "If the customer don't like you, then you better close it down. If the customer likes you, you can expand. You always take care of the customer first because the customer decides, not you."

Kwai has kept his expectations realistic for his new venture. He said WChinese will be directed primarily at locals looking for fast, affordable Chinese fare—and he'll be the first to admit he isn't looking to make a fortune.

"Honestly, we don't need too much business. It's lower overhead, and then (we will) try to give people whatever good food they want. We don't care about the profit that much, honestly," he said. "You never can be rich from opening a small restaurant."

At 62 years old, Kwai is approaching the legal age of retirement—but don't expect him to call it quits just yet. Ultimately, WChinese is a way to keep the entrepreneur busy into his later years.

"I need something to do! Honestly, I'm bored," he said with a hearty laugh. "In this country, I'm 65, maybe, when it's time to retire—but I don't think so. We'll see. I'll keep going until I cannot work anymore."

To learn more, and to place your order, visit wchinesefood.com.

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