Natasha Schooten, Chef, Terrafina at Hester Creek Winery

“The eye opener for me was working at Mission Hill — the cuisine Michael Allemeir was creating at the Terrace by getting in touch with farmers and sourcing out local ingredients. That was a big deal for me. I had come from a large property, corporate-type hotel setting. The relationships he had with the cheese guys, the mushroom guy, the farmers — that changed my head and opened me up to a new passion for food.

“I came to Terrafina because the people who opened the restaurant (exec chef Jeremy Luypen and April Goldade) have a clear vision — they live and breathe it everyday. That is, fresh Tuscan-inspired rustic food, made using local ingredients and sourcing authentic Italian regional foods such as olive oils and pecorino cheese.

“We use Covert Farms outside of Oliver, and Harker’s Organics in Similkameen. On our spring menu is a fennel and beet enchilada from Covert Farms. We should have rutabaga greens in the next couple of weeks and asparagus may come early this year.

“We’re fortunate we have core staff who love the restaurant and the owner. It had been a challenge. But now apprentices and chefs are seeking out the Okanagan. What’s happening here, the calibre of chefs, the way they are presenting their menus, the philosophy a lot of us have is attractive to young cooks.

“There are a lot of young women cooks and aspiring chefs in the Okanagan coming up who are going to be stellar, like Jenna Engle (Local Lounge) and Evelyn Takoff (sous chef at RauDZ) in the next five years.”

Local asparagus and fennel insalata with preserved Meyer lemon and wild nettle vinaigrette

Preserved Meyer lemon and wild nettle vinaigrette

  • 2 T fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • ½ t preserved Meyer lemon rind, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ t Dijon mustard
  • 2 T grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ c steamed wild nettle leaves
  • ½ c white wine vinegar
  • 1 t local honey
  • 2 c olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a blender, add in the first four ingredients and blend. Add steamed nettle and parmesan cheese. Blend. Add white wine vinegar and honey. Slowly add oil until the vinaigrette just comes together. (Don’t want it to emulsify completely as we want some chunky parts to adhere to the salad.)

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.


  • 1 bunch (about 1 pound) of large local asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off, washed and dried.
  • ½ head fennel
  • 1 t fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
  • ¼ c pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 oranges
  • shaved parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6-8 soft poached eggs

Peel asparagus in long strokes to make ribbons. Set aside. Shave fennel thinly discarding woody core. This is best done on a mandoline.

Peel the orange and cut segments removing bitter white pith as you go. Toss asparagus, fennel, tarragon and pine nuts together with a spoonful of the dressing.

To serve: divide the asparagus mixture on six plates, arrange orange pieces evenly, drizzle with a bit more vinaigrette. Place the poached egg on top, scatter shaved parmesan over
and season.

Serves 6-8

Chef’s wine suggestion: Hester Creek Trebbiano.