The Kitchen at Fort Berens Estate Winery is in its third year of operation. Executive Chef Dylan Foss was proud to announce that, this year, 90% of the food served was grown within 20kms of the restaurant.
Serving local food has been a dream of Foss’ for over 10 years and is the culmination of many years of work and apprenticeship. The vision began when Foss worked under Robert Clark—co-founder of Ocean Wise and a strong advocate for sustainability—and it became a priority when he tasted the difference between low and high-quality products.
Foss says the menu changes with the season. “You’ll notice early in the season that the menu is full of root vegetables, dried legumes and braised meats. As spring turns into summer, you’ll see collard greens, kale and baby greens, as well as the first radishes of the season. Then you’ll see cherries showing up in some of the desserts and, as summer progresses, you’ll see tomatoes and melons. The glut of those hot weather vegetables is what is so special to me about Lillooet at this time of the year.”
The Kitchen currently sources its produce and meats from 6 local farms: One Love Farm, Spray Creek Ranch, Rainshadow Growers Collective, Amlec Organic, 3 Ravens Farm and Armitspring Orchard. And if the food on your plate wasn’t picked by a local farmer, it’s likely Foss picked it himself!
Again, this year, Foss and his team have been gleaning fruit from the many fruit trees around town and have put up ads to let people know that they are eager to buy fruit. “I love walking down the street and being able to smell the apricots,” says Foss. “It’s so satisfying to find the trees that have the best apricots and to approach the owners of those trees about maintaining them so that we can come back next year and pick them for the restaurant. They become more flavorful year after year.”
Foss has nothing but praise for the people who provide him with the food he serves. “I’ve come to a place where the locals care about the soil, land and air as much as I do. It’s been like coming home, to connect with a community who cares.” He also talks about the importance of the land stewardship provided by the St’at’imc Nation and adds, “it’s important to me to include foods to my menu that have been sustainably harvested from the land”.
When asked what was next for the restaurant, Foss responded that he hoped to attend and organize more events so as to promote local and sustainable agriculture in Lillooet and draw in outside guests. “That way, when our product goes out to Vancouver, Kamloops, or even Prince George, people are already connected with what’s growing here. They’ve connected with the wine, they’ve come to the restaurant and they’ve connected with the high-quality produce that we serve.”
The Kitchen at Fort Berens showcases the bounty Lillooet has to offer and is a great reminder that, with hard work and dedication, a more sustainable approach to food is possible.