From left: Executive chef at Tigh-Na-Mara Eric Edwards and director of food and beverage Bryan Stokes are excited to dish out Tigh-Na-Mara’s first pizzas from the resort’s newly installed stone oven. Other changes are happening at Cedars, which is undergoing a major renovation. — Adam Kveton Photo

Parksville resort kitchen moves into the stone age

$1.5 million Tigh-Na-Mara reno adds stone oven, pizza menu

When staff at Cedars restaurant at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre found one of their walk-in coolers had kicked the bucket last year, they didn’t imagine they’d end up with a $1.5 million kitchen renovation out of the deal.

After identifying that the flooring had to be replaced as well, director of food and beverage at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre, director of food and beverage Bryan Stokes, said, “It just snowballed from there.”

“It kind of blew us away,” he said in an interview on Friday, Feb. 23, as renovations continued.

“We thought we were going to get some lipstick and a coat of paint, and then the owners really just said, ‘You know what, we’ve got to do it and we’ve got to do it right.’ We’re very grateful that our owners are investing back in the building and the company.”

He estimated the cost of the renovation will be around $1.5 million.

The renovation includes a redesign of the area immediately in front of the kitchen (making it easier for guests to see a bit of the cooking action), an expansion to the restaurant’s lounge, new flooring and walls within the kitchen, new kitchen lighting, a climate-controlled exhaust system, a bigger walk-in freezer and cooler, better-utilized space allowing for a more efficient banquet service, and, perhaps best of all, a stone oven.

“It’s just amazing what that item is going to do,” said executive chef Eric Edwards.

The oven is made by Wood Stone Corp. out of Bellingham, Wash.

Edwards and Stokes said they were impressed to see the company’s products going out to chefs like Jamie Oliver and Wolfgang Puck, as well as being shipped to Las Vegas and Dubai.

While Edwards said the stone oven can do racks of lamb, steaks, short ribs and many other food items, one of the brand-new things it will create out of the Cedars kitchen is pizzas.

“We’ve never had pizzas before,” said Stokes. Soon, once the kitchen reopens in March, not only will the restaurant be cooking various 12-inch pizzas, they’ll be making them for take-out orders as well.

Local diners as well as guests of the resort will be able to order pizzas via, schedule when they’d like their pizza ready, and pick it up (there will not be delivery service, Stokes noted).

Though pizzas are something new, the way they are made will still be inspired by the restaurant’s existing emphasis on contemporary rustic cuisine.

“The biggest thing is seeing the passion of Eric in doing his research on making sure he’s using (San) Marzano tomatoes, quality mozzarella, quality parmesan reggiano. Eric’s passion with rustic cuisine is trying to get to the roots of whatever he’s doing, so if he’s doing pizza’s, he wants to be as rustic and as authentic as he can.”

Some pizzas to look forward to are a wild mushroom pizza; a play on a chicken club with prosciutto, arugula and pulled rotisserie chicken; classics such as a margarita pizza; and seasonal pizzas.

“They sky is the limit,” said Edwards.

While these and other new menu items are certainly exciting for staff, it’s the overall effect of the renovation that they are perhaps most looking forward to.

“It was a restaurant kitchen, and now we have a full-service hotel kitchen in the sense that we have a catering area (that can be better utilized),” said Edwards.

They also hope that, by having a modernized, more-efficient kitchen, staff will be happy to stay on, and that it might attract new talent as well, said Stokes.

In the meantime, in an effort to keep kitchen staff working and provide food to guests, cooks have been working out of mobile kitchens for the months of January and February.

Though running between the resort and the mobile kitchens in the winter cold has been a new experience for some staff, one member of the kitchen staff is right at home, having worked in the oil fields in similar kitchens, said Edwards.

While a grand opening has not yet been scheduled, a soft opening is scheduled for March 12, said Stokes.

“March 12 we’re opening for breakfast. That will be the first day that we’ll open the doors with a full à la carte menu and people can come in and get a gander,” he said.

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