Humans of Campbell River: More Eatery
Humans of Campbell River is a collaboration between Destination Campbell River and Bluetree Photography. Showcasing the stories of those who call our coastal community home. Each week we deep dive into a new story and the connections between people and place.
I grew up on the west coast of Vancouver Island in a mill town “Gold River” with my parents my older brother and little sister.
I loved everything about my time in Gold River. I was given so much freedom to explore, experiment and get into a bit of mischief. We lived in a 1970’s BC box house, with an unbelievably well tended garden. I have always had fresh fruit, veggies and herbs at my finger tips. Both of my parents love to cook, and I would spend hours watching and helping them in the kitchen. I was the chubby kid with a rat-tail hair cut stealing raspberries and strawberries from my neighbour’s garden so my mom could make me berry pancakes on Saturday mornings.
I would forage for huckleberries, blackberries and salmon berries and got shooed away from many cherry and apple trees. Honestly I was one step away from being classified with the menace garbage bears that plague the neighbourhood. My dad taught me how to pick wild mushrooms. This is continues to be one of my most favourite fall hobbies, the only thing I like more than food, is free food!
Ok my family loves to fish …… like if you were in my family and didn’t want to fish, I might as well have taken myself to the orphanage. I was my older brother’s little buddy and he took me everywhere. We would spend our weekends and long summer days trout fishing in any one of the hundreds of fishing holes found in the Strathcona area. My first time driving a car was when I was 6 years old trying to get my brother’s car unstuck from the mud at our favourite fishing spot. I didn’t quite have the whole brake vs gas figured out and managed to cover my bro and his 3 buddies head to toe in mud as they pushed. My dad was partners in a float house in Nootka Sound. We would spend days on end fishing the first light and night bite shifts for salmon, halibut and cod. My favourite was jigging for cod and then making my own fish and chips. The time I spent out there was some of the happiest times of my life. It is also where my love and interest in cooking really began.
Full disclosure: I failed grade 8 home Ec.
First problem was that I refused to sew the heart shaped lacey mothers day pillow, but redeemed myself when I crafted a bad ass camouflage apron which I still use to this day. Second nail in my coffin was when me and my best friend “little joe” misread the wheat germ muffin recipes and put 85 grams of salt instead of 85 grams of sugar. The teacher was not impressed, and hesitated to sample any of our other culinary creations after that day. So I failed 48%.
I took a year off and worked at the Supervalu. When all my buddies were partying I was always the one to pack us a lunch, grill up my dads steaks or make homemade pizza for everyone. One day, my friend’s dad told me about the NIC professional cook training program he had just enrolled in. He was so excited to share all the new things he was learning and he knew of my love of food (his cherry tree was on of the ones I would raid). I knew right then and there this was the path for me.
I completed the NIC cook training in 2001 and began working at Painters Lodge. My parents encouraged me to go back to school after the Summer season. They wanted to keep me on track and wanted me to use up my education savings plan. So I enrolled in the Tourism Management Program. I fell asleep during all the classes about human resources (sorry Deborah) and fell for the cute girl with the ponytail and ball cap who sat across from me. I was being particularly difficult during an HR role-playing exercise that we were partnered for and she threatened to crush my skull if I didn’t smarten up. It was at the moment I knew there was something very special about this girl. She is now my wife and business partner and my best friend, Carmen. Or as I call her Carmo.
What happens when you combine 2 A-type workaholics. One with ADHD and one with OCD?…….. and no this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke, this is us!
We live a big full life. Did I mention we have 5 kids, a dog, 3 cats, a large extended family and the best crew of buddies around?
Our careers have been full and busy. We keep strange and long hours, we work all the weekend and holidays. Our kids grew up behind the scenes of our wild resort lives. They stacked wood, cleaned rooms, did laundry, learned to drive on golf carts, washed dishes, scrubbed mussels and baby carrots and any other outlandish request we had. They tolerated postponed birthdays and holidays but we always laughed and made the best of our time together.
We have had the unbelievable opportunity to work in some of the most beautiful places in the region. We have been on yachts, in helicopters, on boats, in seaplanes and in remote locations. We have hosted and entertained a myriad of events and loved every moment….. oh wait, maybe not EVERY moment! With all of our experiences together and apart, Carmen and I know that we are meant to work together. When we do, we can make magic. There aren’t 2 humans on earth more opposite than myself and Carmen, but when we work together I feel fully supported to immerse myself in all the creative pieces of my craft and know she’s there cheering me on. She is also there giving me a hard time if I’m not on schedule or have forgotten something. When we stay in our own lanes life is perfect……. But we both swerve constantly and have to negotiate all those bumps.
We are entertainers…… creating these experiences fills us up! When the pandemic hit and I was laid off and Carmen had to cancel a whole wedding season, we drank our wine collection and cooked like iron chefs in competition. Sharing these creations was soul-filling for us during a very unsure and stressful time.
One evening Carmen received a text message from a friend, brutally honest as always …… you are crazy if you don’t find a way to share this. So, With our minds bubbling with ideas, a desire to share our passion for food and some sage advice we got to work dreaming up “More”
Our first unofficial Virtual Dinner party was Cinco de Mayo for a group of our closest buddies. In past years this event was hosted by our friends and was always eagerly anticipated by all attendees. We needed an excuse to meet up and blow off some steam……. So we prepared kits of Watermelon Margaritas, Prawn ceviche and halibut tacos with all the fix-ins and doorstep delivered them. I was so nervous to do the “show” but with a few margaritas in me and Carmen’s fearlessness, we completed our first event with a new platform. We hosted an Italian trio of fish the very next week with a few tweaks to our program for a few more friends. Within the month we had a website launched (with the help of our future Son in Law and Daughter) whom continue to patiently help us muddle our way through all the tech stuff.
We have hosted dozens of virtual dinner parties…… we have seen people not make it past the cocktails because they decided to start dancing, we have done celebratory shooters, shared beautiful food, explored new ethnic cuisines, connected parents with their 4 sons from around the globe, helped teams meet and build connections, taught people how to use that electric hand mixer hiding in the back of their cupboards and shared many laughs and wonderful conversations.
When restrictions started to loosen, we added our dropbox service. This allowed our guests to enjoy our food with their small bubbles. Because of the overwhelming response and support for this product we are now offering it twice a week.
I have to admit that private catering is truly my favourite service we offer. I love the opportunity and trust our clients give us to snoop their kitchenwares, mess up their gorgeous kitchens and be given creative license to prepare them and their guests a beautiful meal. Don’t worry, we always leave everything as we find it, Carmen makes sure of it!
People have often told us they are so thankful for what we do, but the truth is Carmen and I are the ones that have the most to be thankful for. We have always been absolutely blown away by all the support this amazing community we call home has shown us, even our most wild and hair-brained ideas are met with enthusiastic support.
So I guess what Im trying to say is This last 1.5 years has taught us so much. We have learned how to tear down our expectations and rebuild. To look at things through a new lense. To continue to plan hopefully but except and adapt to what comes. We have grown as cooks, business people and partners…… its been a wild ride full of sleepless nights, excited stomach aches, disappointed hopes, big fights and laughing so hard we cry. Its has been the most challenging yet most fulfilling time in our careers. We have never felt more accomplished, excited or alive.
So keep your eyes on us…… we are a couple of weirdos with some really big dreams.
Much love and Gratitude,
Joey & Carmen ✌️