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Dining on the Nanoose Bay waterfront

John Stratton, executive chef of Seascape

- Words by Susan Lundy Photography by Sean Fenzel

Described as a “modern Canadian tavern,” Seascape is a new waterfront dining destination in Nanoose Bay’s Fairwinds community.

Located in Fairwinds Landing, Seascape offers spectacular ocean and marina views, an ambiance that’s relaxed and inviting, and a menu that highlights comfort food with a modern twist, and built around locally sourced products from the land and the sea.

Boulevard reached out to Seascape’s executive chef John Stratton for more information about his background and the philosophy behind Seascape.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Oakville, Ontario, where I discovered a passion for cuisine. As a teenager, I worked as a busboy and dishwasher in a seafood restaurant and I found myself excited about the process of producing and working with food. After graduating from the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at George Brown College, I decided to hit the road. Being half Australian, I spent several years there in my early 20s, exploring my roots and gaining many experiences. I did everything from farming produce and pigs to cooking in luxurious island resorts.

Where did you work before Seascape?

Arriving at Fairwinds from the Okanagan in the new year, I was previously the executive chef at Sparkling Hill Resort. Before that, I spent 2016 attempting to hike as many national parks as I could across North America, starting in Utah and winding up in British Columbia.

Why did you decide to become a chef?

I don’t think it was a so much a “decision”—it just happened! Between part-time jobs as a youngster, the mentors I was lucky to have, a curiosity for the industry, and the opportunity to be creative and never stop learning, it just worked! What else was I going to do?

How does the menu at Seascape reflect the restaurant’s theme or brand?

Trick question! As a brand-new restaurant, we are still finding our footing and determining what works for our customers and us. Seascape’s location has a strong influence on our culinary decisions. It’s nestled into Schooner Cove, overlooking Fairwinds Marina and the Winchelsea Islands, and yet it’s surrounded by dense forests and just minutes from local producers: our menu reflects all the incredible ingredients Central Vancouver Island has to offer.

What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?

I don’t think there is a singular ingredient I could not live without, but I could not handle living without access to fresh local products. It does not get any better than looking out the window and seeing the ocean where we get our seafood or visiting the farms and people who produce the incredible products that we all have access to.

What would your last meal be like?

Hard to say. I don’t have any favourite foods and cravings change with my mood. Maybe a spicy curry, some fresh sushi or a greasy burger.

What is the best recent food trend?

I don’t really follow trends; I can’t say that I ever have. But from what I gather, low-waste foods are trending right now, and that concept has always resonated with me. Making hyper-local and eco-conscious purchasing decisions means reducing unnecessary packaging and emissions. Also, repurposing food scraps that may have previously ended up in the bin (like broccoli stems, carrot tops and potato peels) increases sustainability and reduces waste. There are so many ways we can do a better job to protect our planet and support local producers, and any trend stepping in this direction is one I can get behind.

What is a good simple piece of advice for pairing wine and food?

When done right, wine and food pairings can create a religious experience, but don’t feel like you are somehow bound to the rules of white and red combinations. Don’t be afraid to break the rules when thinking about wine. Even though sablefish and Chardonnay are a classic combination, sometimes Pinot Noir, or maybe even a light and fresh Syrah to cleanse the palate, would be even better. Above all, I think it is essential to drink what you like!

What is your favourite cuisine to cook?

Brazing, smoking, anything slow. On the off chance I have an afternoon to enjoy making a meal, I want to take my time, enjoy a nice bottle of wine, while I putter in the kitchen and build the anticipation for a delicious meal. Cooking at home is the opposite of cooking in a busy restaurant and I like to savour the experience.

When are you happiest at work?

When I am working in a busy service, shoulder to shoulder with my team; the energy and the camaraderie is infectious.

When are you happiest outside of work?

When I am outside with my girl Aurora (a rambunctious Airedale terrier), hiking, foraging and beachcombing. I am so thrilled to be here in Fairwinds and Nanoose Bay; it is an outdoor wonderland that I can’t wait to explore even more.

Find out more about Seascape here.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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