Our very first Culinary Event – Amazing!

Seaweb group after arrival

Previously we posted about our plans to serve a feast of locally grown sustainable shellfish served to international seafood experts who are gathering for SeaWeb Seafood Choices 2011 Seafood Summit.   When Taylor Shellfish and Fanny Bay Oysters who sponsored the event, first suggested it months ago we thought we’d be further along.   A collection of international experts devoted to increasing the sustainability of  seafood was such an appropriate group for the Field Station that we wanted to make it happen.  The real hero of the story is the crew; Heatherbrae Builders and all the local trades who absolutely stepped up to the plate and made a big push to the finish to get the Station ready for this exclusive pre-opening event.  Lisa Verbicky from the Beacon Magazine visited a couple weeks prior when we were also dealing with a surprise dump of snow and her story catches the spirit of the chaos at the time.  “A ten-minute slog and one soaked boot later, I’m at the front entrance of the station, crossing over a metal bridge, through a set of newly hung doors and into chaos. The soon to be lobby is obstructed with newly unwrapped stainless steel kitchen appliances. Husky men in hard hats are dangling from scaffolding and poking out from behind beams and freshly hung drywall.”

Read on for a photo essay …


A story in a picture, the day before the dinner, a crane truck removes shipping containers that had served as on site shops for trades, while a party rental truck waits to unload. A new layer of oyster shells being spread on the driveway.

Lunch stop at the Fanny Bay Inn--Group photo

Photo by John Rowley

On Saturday, the bus tour organized by Seattle Seafood Impresario Jon Rowley , traveled from Vancouver,  and stops included lunch at the local landmark the Fanny Bay Inn, home of the best oyster burger on Vancouver Island.

Boarding Deep Bay Marine Field Station research vessel Chetlo in Deep Bay for Island Scallop farm tour.
Photo by John Rowley

Later in the afternoon we used the Chetlo as one of a number of aquaculture vessels to visit Stellar Bay Shellfish’s FLUPSY and Island Scallop’s scallop farm.

Low Tide Oyster and wine tasting on Fanny Bay Oyster's Berry Road oyster bed.
Photo by John Rowley

The group would then go on to tour the Fanny Bay processing plant and sample oysters and wine on one of Fanny Bay’s oyster leases in the dark like real oyster oyster farmers (well except for the wine!).

Set-up 2

Meanwhile we were setting the tables at the Station.
Larry McFarland, John Hemsworth - Architects 2

Architects Larry Mcfarland (R) and John Hemsworth (L) came over for the event and to see the building for the very first time without scaffolding. Much to be proud about.

Xinh and crew

Chef Debbie Shore and  second year students from the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island were working with acclaimed chef Xinh Dwelley of Xinh’s Clam & Oyster House in Shelton, WA. to prepare an amazing meal. Xinh came up two nights before and spent the Friday giving a seminar on her style of cooking (made famous on the TV show “Dirty Jobs) for the Culinary students on Nanaimo campus.  A great opportunity for students to learn from her unique style, work with very expensive geoduck and get to try out a brand new kitchen.

Debbie Shore shows off kitchen

Chef Shore shows the kitchen off before the dinner – note the kitchen counter being projected onto the flat screen.

Xinh - sampling geoduck ceviche

Stephanie Richards, who was responsible for all the behind the scenes logistics and organizing tries a sample of geoduck ceviche, while Jennifer Hopper (Taylor Shellfish) looks on.

Don, Mike, Ralph and Suzie

and what would be a VIU event without President Ralph Nilson to host?  Here with wife Suzie and big supporters of the station Don Hubbard (far left) , past Board of Governors Board Chair and current VIU Board Chair Mike Brown (second from left).

Oyster Greeting

Tour participants were greeted by tour participant Nicole Schaefer from Calgary, who gamely agreed to wear Jon Rowley’s “oyster suit”.
Oyster love!

Don Tillapaugh, CSR Director hams it up with the oyster.

Culinary Students - oyster bar

Culinary students, Chauncey McEachern, Derek Hammond, Donna Kreisle served up local oysters.

April and Emily - working the induction Range

Culinary students April Li and Emily Liang working the induction range.

Margaret (Taylor Shellfish) and Culinary Students

Margaret Sanate (Taylor Shellfish) and Culinary students show off  a Thai Saute with Local Scallops, Local Prawns and Calamari.

Marinated mussels

The full menu was:

Vietnamese Geoduck Salad (Ceviche)
Baked Oysters with Asian Topping
Marinated Mussels with Tahini Sauce
Vietnamese Style Egg Rolls

Pan Fried Geoduck
Mussel Curry with Steamed Rice
Thai Saute with Local Scallops, Local Prawns and Calamari

Jennifer Hopper (Taylor Shellfish) beaming in kitchen

Jennifer Hopper, Taylor Shellfish flashes a smile as students get the food out.


70 people comfortably seated in our conference room (just like we designed for) while Dawn Martin, President of Seaweb (far left) proposes a toast.


VIU Fisheries and Aquaculture students Sarah, Rianna and Holly (standing in the back and not in their usual rain gear) did an outstanding job of putting together unique CSR centerpieces; flasks full of shellfish, plus an urchin or sea cucumber for fun and next to each a small flask of murky, algae-filled water.

Ecosystem Services - Centrepieces
Photo by Jaqueline Marks, Seaweb.

The students advised the group to pour the ‘dirty’ water into the larger shellfish-filled flask and watch them go to work. By the end of the delectable meal the water was clear again – a creative demonstration of the important ecosystem services shellfish provide. We put Sarah on the spot by making her explain the “shellfish biology in action” center piece, as she pointed out – this was the Field Stations first experiment as different tables competed to see whose flask cleared the fastest.

Dr. Ralph Nilson remarks

Dr. Nilson talked to the group about VIU’s integrated approach to supporting coastal communities as evidenced by the Station, our research, links to student opportunities and our willingness to enter into partnerships like this dinner.

Desert prep

After dinner, the VIU Culinary students served some of their amazing pastries.

Culinary Team - Yeah!

And then the culinary team came out for a standing ovation. what an incredible meal!  From Left, Albert Tomasson, Debbie shore, Mei Ramos, James Sugden (behind Mei) Margaret with Jennifer Hopper  hidden behind and Scott Russell behind Jen, Xinh Dwelley, Julian Smith behind, Donna Kreisle, April Li’s ear, Emily Liang, Chauncey McEachern behind, Derek Hammond far right.

So nothing like trying a dry run to see how the room and kitchen worked with a little dinner for friends :).    Most of all we’re pleased; pleased that the building is so capable of doing everything we planned, with the upper floor acting as a place for the integration of dialogue, local partnerships, showing off what our incredible students and staff can do and demonstrating the fantastic quality of  locally grown shellfish.  What a success!  Thanks so much to everyone who worked so tirelessly to make this be able to happen and our partners; Bill Taylor (Taylor Shellfish, Jon Rowley (Taylor) and Brian Yip (Fanny Bay Oysters) and the crew from Seaweb.

We are really excited to see where we can go from here.

For more on this dinner and tour:

Our Full Photo set

John Rowley’s Photo Set

Jaqueline Mark’s (Seaweb) blog post about the tour and event


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