Best Producer 2015
Best Producer/Supplier winner of Vancouver Magazine's 26th Annual Restaurant Awards
April 21, 2015
Vancouver Island Salt Co.
For local disciples of the 100-Mile Diet, certain staples remain maddeningly taboo. Coffee, say, is roasted in every suburb of Metro Vancouver, but none is grown here. Olive oil. Sea salt. That last one made the Cowichan Valley’s Andrew Sheppard question why there was no domestic producer when he himself lived on an island surrounded by some of the most pristine salt water in the world. On a beer bet, he boiled down a batch of ocean and in the five pounds of salt left in his kettle, he glimpsed a future not just for himself but for a Canadian industry he has willed into being.
With a $100,000 win in the 2014 Telus Small Business Challenge contest, Sheppard’s five-year-old company is stepping up its game, expanding into global distribution and greening its production method. (Heat used to come from wood, but now it’s oil recycled from the restaurant industry; the company sells its carbon credits.) Green is great, but for chefs the deciding factor is flavour. Forage’s Chris Whittaker uses the salt for finishing meats and to give sweets (like his house-made Nutella) a tangy kick. “I love it.
I love that it’s local; I love the minerality of it. We’re serving it with fish that’s caught in the same water it comes from. Now that’s terroir.”