Q1: How was your summer 2021?
Chef Derek(D): “It started off with a bang. We had one of our busiest Julys. Then, with Covid resurgence and forest fires, we saw huge reduction in people coming through. There is definitely a drop off.”
Q2: Climate change is one of the most pressing issues today. How have the recent wild fires affected your business or your approach to food business?
D: “We have to be able to pivot. With all the provisions in the summer months, we do small little things like making sausages and selling online or baking bread through slower months when there is no tourism. We will probably have to bring that back sooner rather than later this year. Normally we won’t get started until the end of September, but we are looking to get started in the end of August. Climate change is going to have a huge impact on what we do.”
Q3: On top of the climate change, there is a pandemic. How do you see your restaurant evolving through the pandemic time and in a post pandemic world?
D: “It changes drastically from the way we set up each table to our everyday conversation. Never once, in my time as a chef, has it been so much stimulus regulations on the business, but I also see why they are there.
The takeout has taken off for many restaurants in Vancouver but it was not an option for us. Here, most of them are farmers who grow their own food and cook for themselves. Also, we want to stay true to what we do. We could do all those things that appease to a lot of people for take out like spaghetti with meatballs or a really great pizza but it wouldn’t be us. Sometimes we have to put value on what we do, not just for profit. Hopefully it is a draw for people to make a journey and come see us.”
Q4: What is the biggest joy working in a restaurant?
D: “It is the people that I work with. For instance, Mai, my Jr sous chef, has worked with me for 5 years, and now she is like a family member and an auntie to my 2 kids. They are the ones who create the service, the atmosphere and the food. That’s what I really enjoy the most – the people.”
Q5: ”If you were not a chef, what would you be?”
D: “That’s tough! But I recently got into photography and I really enjoy it. I also grew up drawing a lot, so I could have been a tattoo artist down the line. I would definitely still like working with my hands a lot.”
Q6: “What is your current favorite dish?”
D: “Right now we’ve just received our first season of corns. We grill corn on the cob with green onion and aioli and we make tasty sauce with tomatoes, onions and peppers, fried in oil with herbs, and let it marinate and cover with the corn. It is really good!
Tomatoes & Peaches is another one of my favorite. This dish has grown with different seasons of tomatoes. Now we have fresh heirloom tomatoes, peaches and cherry tomatoes. Tomato is my favorite of all the ingredients. They are savory but they can also be sweet as well.”
Q7: “Where is your go-to-spots when you are off work?”
D: “Elma and Pizzeria Tratto in Penticton. Another favorite place of mine is Mexican place in Osoyoos called La Marqueza. It is the market the sells Mexican ingredients on one side and does really good street tacos on the other. My kids really love beef tongue tacos there!”
Q8: How can people enjoy Okanagan in the fall?
D: “When the trees start to change into nice fall colors, they are so beautiful. Near the end of September to the beginning of October is when it gets really nice around here with a huge drastic change to the fall. Another good reason for coming in the fall is trout fishing! Wineries are still open by appointments, and the cidery and we are here as well.”
Q9: How is this year’s harvest looking like?
D: “Plentiful. They’ve been harvesting like there’s no tomorrow. Peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, etc, and apples are ripening to get picked in a month. The recent heat waves cooked some cherries and apricots and left sunburn on apples, but the cidery is a great avenue for such crops. In so many ways, it is a big, fully evolving circle here. The restaurant buys products from the farm, and in turn, we compost so our organic materials get back into their field. In the beginning, when they cut down a lot of apple trees in the orchard, we were recycling and burning those apple woods in our wood-fired hearth as well.”
Q10: In a few words, how would you best describe Row Fourteen?
D: “We are a table on a farm. It is an escapism from what is farm-to-table. Here we are, surrounded by working farms and a realization of where your food comes from is right in front of you. You will be looking at it from your table and seeing the farmers picking all the fruits off the trees.”