Bernard Casavant, Executive Chef, Manteo Resort

Bernard Casavant, Manteo Resort.
Bernard Casavant, Manteo Resort.

I first met Bernie Casavant when I fell in love with not just his food and sensibility, but his massive hand-packed jars of preserves displayed in the dining room at Burrowing Owl Winery. I came home with as many jars of tarragon-scented carrots and wildberry jams as wine that trip. His list of culinary accolades is long: chef Expo 86; Bocuse d’Or 1992; opening chef Fairmont Chateau Whistler; founding member Farm Folk/City Folk; Whistler’s first farmers’ market. He chose the Okanagan in 2006.

Why the Okanagan?

“I remember the moment: I was with my wife and Rod and Audrey. Pulling out of Inniskillin sometime in the mid 90’s. We pulled over to the side of the road to look at a pear. We took a bite, juice running down our arms — wouldn’t it be cool to live here and have this? Then Rod and Audrey opened Fresco, then morphed into RauDZ Regional Table.

“My new project is called Smack Dab in Manteo Resort. It’s about craft beer and hand-produced artisan cider. We have 12 taps, 24 bottles — Fernie Red Caboose ale, Blue Buck Brewery out of Victoria is a new style beer — nice hoppy forward beer with exotic fruit flavours, Ward Cider is a family producer near east Kelowna, and we carry Summerland Cidery.

We moved to the Okanagan in 2006, now there’s so much movement in the valley — more and more reasons for people to stay in the valley producing.

“We’ve been using Curtis for a few years now and I’ve been a big fan of Harker’s for most of our ground crops, especially heirloom tomatoes. They are a six generation family farm in the Similkanmeen.

“We just had our first forager come by with wild violets. This guy, Scott the forager, did a stage in England and Spain to learn to be a professional forager. He started with wild mushrooms. This is the stuff that gets us chefs excited — fat hen greens, wild milk thistle.

“You know who really is the pioneer in this? Rod Butters, my best friend.

“He went in a big way, and has inspired so many young chefs to get on board with local. He forced me to join the association and now it’s such a thrill to be involved. It’s progressive. The junior membership is huge — they are the chefs of tomorrow.”

Wild BC spot prawn risotto

  • 1 L vegetable stock
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T onion, peeled, diced fine
  • 1 c arborio rice
  • ½ c Okanagan Valley white wine
  • 30 pcs (depending on the size of the prawns, and how much you like them!) wild BC spot prawns peeled (reserve shells for another use)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1½ c fresh chèvre (goats cheese)
  • sea salt milled pepper to taste
  • 2 T finely minced chives

Bring stock to a rolling boil, reduce to a simmer. In a pot large enough to hold all ingredients, over medium heat, heat the oil and butter, add the onion. Sauté briefly until soft. Do not allow it to brown. Add the arborio, sauté until well coated, and the rice changes to a light white color. Add white wine, stir and reduce.

Using a 4 oz ladle, carefully add the stock one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid is almost evaporated. Repeat procedure, adding the stock until the stock is almost finished.

When the rice is fully cooked, and still a little crunchy in the centre — al dente — stop adding stock, fold in the spot prawns, and mix thoroughly. Do not over-mix as the risotto will become mushy. Add in the butter, chèvre, salt, milled pepper. Mix again, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Add in a half ladle of stock and chives, mix very lightly.

Serve immediately and enjoy with a bottle of Sandhill Small Lots Viognier.