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Shuswap restaurant owners aim to support community of farmers and artisans

‘The support of this community has meant a lot through so many parts of our lives’
Marianne and Chris Whittaker and their son in front of Timber Shuswap, the restaurant they opened in Blind Bay. Timber focuses on local, farm to table cuisine. (Contributed)

Since opening in Blind Bay, Timber Shuswap has filled a gap in the community for locally-sourced, upscale food and drink.

After opening on July 8 of this year, owners Chris and Marianne Whittaker have noticed the community has stepped up to support the new restaurant and is embracing the long-time restaurateurs’ offerings.

The Whittakers moved to the Shuswap in 2018 from Vancouver, wanting a slower lifestyle with less commuting time and more opportunities to get outdoors with their son.

Chris has an extensive background as an executive chef, having worked nearly 24 years in the industry.

He worked at two notable Vancouver restaurants, Forage and Timber (Timber Shuswap is named after the Vancouver location since the original’s closing) and has won multiple awards.

He was inducted into the B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2015, claimed a spot on Western Living’s 2016 Foodies of the Year list, and helped Forage snag a spot on OpenTable’s 100 Best Restaurants in Canada ranking.

He is also passionate about sustainability and has won several awards for his green initiatives. Marianne worked as the assistant food and beverage manager at Swaneset Golf Course in Pitt Meadows before moving to the Shuswap, and so the two say they make a great team.

“Food has been a major part of our lives for a long time, we know what it takes to run a restaurant,” said Chris. “We try to do everything as ethically and sustainably as possible and be good employers.”

Upon moving, Chris took on the role of executive chef at Quaaout Lodge at Little Shuswap Lake and worked there for four and a half years.

He and his family grew to love the area and its people, and the couple decided to look for an opportunity to open their own restaurant. The pandemic put a pause on the plans, but when the space for Timber became available they jumped at the chance.

The Whittakers were able to bring their working relationship with Mclean Farms, based in Tappen, with them to Timber.

Sean and Lisa Mclean provided most of the beef to Quaaout Lodge and now provide for the new eatery as well as being joint owners with the Whittakers.

“For us, coming from the city and not having those opportunities to dine at the level we were used to, that inspired us to open Timber,” said Chris.

“It’s a little more upscale and inventive, with a focus on really supporting the community of farmers, artisans, wineries and breweries…We’re surrounded by so much of that bounty, it felt like we needed to represent this region stronger.”

Chris said the community has been very supportive, and with the demographics of the area changing, there is an audience for the kind of farm to table cuisine they’re offering now.

Timber didn’t have a liquor licence until September, after opening in July, and the business they received just for food service and from people wanting to check out something new in the community was so good it didn’t impact them financially, Marianne said.

“We just want to reiterate how the support of the community has meant a lot through so many parts of our lives,” said Chris. “It’s overwhelming at times, the support.”

Timber Shuswap is open Thursday to Monday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for brunch, lunch and dinner service, and is only open for evening hours on Wednesdays, 5 to 9 p.m.

Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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