For Chef Alessa Valdez, cooking means love. Growing up in Filipino culture, family gatherings were frequent, centered on food, and began early with an entire day devoted to cooking. It was as she began to work her way through the ranks of upscale Toronto kitchens that she started to see it as a career. “I fell in love with the kitchen culture — everything from learning different techniques, different types of cuisines, and learning how to appreciate each ingredient on the plate.” She worked in top kitchens including Buca Yorkville, Alo Bar, and Auberge du Pommier before heading west to join The Restaurant at Phantom Creek Estates in 2021. Calling it the best decision she’s ever made, Chef Valdez finds new inspiration every day from her surroundings in the South Okanagan, and from the bounty of the region. “Every ingredient has a story to tell. I get to use my training, skills and knowledge to share that story with our guests, and there’s nothing more rewarding for me than knowing I’ve made a memory from just one bite.”
Sous Chef Elizabeth Kalin is a true local, born and raised on a farm just outside of Armstrong in the North Okanagan where her family raised animals and grew fruits and vegetables, and where her mom made fresh dairy products and preserves. It’s a background that’s had enormous influence on her philosophy as a chef. “Knowing firsthand how much work and care goes into growing, raising and making your own food has given me tremendous appreciation and respect for the products that I use now, and for the farmers and producers we work with.” After completing culinary school in B.C. Elizabeth went abroad, working in kitchens in Cardiff and Swansea in Wales, UK, then came home, cooking and gaining experience in bakeries, breweries and resorts throughout the province. It was during a visit to the South Okanagan in 2020 that she fell in love with the region, and moved here in the spring of 2021 to help open The Restaurant at Phantom Creek Estates.
Born in the south of France, Roxane Devynck was raised on the flavours and textures of the fruit from her parents’ orchard and helped transform it into preserves, vinegars, pastries and more. Initially, her own interests lay elsewhere, and after studying art, she began her career painting and designing art books. It was during travel through Australia that she began cooking and baking professionally, landing a job in a pub the outback. “The food was simple, but it was fresh, and made with native ingredients. It combined everything I like: cuisine, design, art and foraging.” It’s even more true in her work as a pastry chef, where her passion for art sparks ideas, and her love of fresh and foraged ingredients encourages new explorations of flavour and texture. Roxane moved to B.C. from France in 2021 with her Canadian-born husband, and enjoys the parallels she finds in the South Okanagan to the French principle of basing the day’s menu on what’s available from the local farmers’ market.
Phillip Cowell discovered his passion for customer service back in 2010, while working as a barista outside a busy Vancouver SkyTrain station soon after arriving from Australia. Although he took it only to earn money, the job opened the door to a world he hadn’t considered before: hospitality. “Working at a busy transit station I got to see a lot of familiar faces in the ‘regulars’ we saw. Learning their preferences and building a relationship is one thing, but connecting with people on a personal level, or becoming a part of their day, it quickly became more than just a job.” From that humble beginning, Phillip went on to work in restaurants, hotels and resorts around the world, including The Savoy in London, England; Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa in Galway, Ireland; and most recently, the Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel in Banff, Alberta. At The Restaurant at Phantom Creek Estates, he uses all the tools, training and knowledge at his disposal to ensure each guest has an experience that will be remembered as one of a kind.
After completing his MBA in International Hospitality Management and spending several years working in hotels and restaurants in France and his home country of Tunisia, Yassine Ati decided it was time to explore the North American experience, and moved to the Okanagan Valley in 2021. His passion for hospitality had first been sparked by his family’s work in the industry, and grew as he discovered a love of French, North African, Spanish and Italian cuisines and culture. At The Restaurant at Phantom Creek Estates, he’s excited to learn more about the wine industry and to share his interest and commitment to exceptional service with guests.