From Tater Tots to Full-Fledged Foodie

Words By Amber Assu
Photos By Sierra Assu

How an inedible childhood cultivated a Campbell River chef.

From the moment my head hits the pillow until first light shines through my bedroom windows, I’m thinking of food. I’m not referring to a midnight snack, but, if I were, some of my favourite savoury nibbles include spot prawn sockeye ceviche, red wine chorizo, or whatever remnants are leftover from last night’s dinner.

Neither of my parents possessed any culinary capabilities. As a child, I was accustomed to a revolving weekly routine of Captain Crunch, burnt Tater Tots, Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches, and something my mother referred to as meatloaf but strongly resembled a charcoal briquette. I viewed mealtime with disdain, but my imagination ran wild about what was on my plate. At the age of eight, I made a promise to myself that I would learn how to cook the moment I was able to.

Despite the recurring charcoal briquettes, hope was not lost. Being born and raised in Vancouver provided me with an influx of diverse cuisine. Once I was old enough to dine at restaurants on my own, I forged friendships with some of Yaletown’s most renowned chefs and began experimenting with exotic ingredients—many of which are readily available right here.

I am fortunate to have been exposed to, and influenced by, such culinary excellence. It instilled a strong belief in culinary goodness. After moving to Campbell River, I needed to find a way to bring a small piece of it with me. And so… Good Wife Gourmet was born.

Campbell River and the outlying areas of the Strathcona Regional District maintain an abundance of natural resources that play a leading role in an eclectic, steadily evolving menu. Components found in my ingredient repertoire include various types of wildlife and fish. Regular features include meats such as elk, deer and venison, as well as seafood such as halibut, rockfish, red snapper, swimming scallops, spot prawns, octopus, Dungeness crab, oysters, and clams. Living in a coastal fishing community and owning a commercial fishing vessel is a giant perk as a chef. It enables me the opportunity to focus on providing clients with our own salmon catch that’s commercially processed in Campbell River.

Local farmers markets and small food-based businesses also play a large part in my menu selection, along with a steadfast belief in creating everything from scratch for an optimal client experience. Whether it be kelp, seaweed, edible flowers, herbs, fruits or vegetables, there is a noticeable difference when using local natural ingredients versus processed items.

It is a privilege to live in an area where a farm-to-table/sea-to-table lifestyle makes everything easily accessible. Even with that one intolerable rooster I continually hear crowing somewhere… way off in the distance.




Category: Volume 2