There’s a new home-grown chef back in town.
Jason Harper, who was born and raised in Chilliwack, and his wife, Miranda, recently became the new operators of Wellington Local House and Royal Hotel Café.
At 31, Jason has now been involved in the food industry for more than half his life, and studied culinary arts at Vancouver Community College.
It began when he was just 15 years old working at Bravo Restaurant when it first opened. From there, he’s hopped from one restaurant to the next working in Chilliwack, Hope, Agassiz, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Toronto and Vancouver, typically staying long enough to open up a restaurant or build a kitchen from the ground up before moving on to the next location.
“I was constantly bouncing around as I was building my career and my reputation,” he says. “I have worked everywhere.”
He’s carried titles of sous chef, head chef, chef de cuisine and restaurateur. He’s worked in a prison and bought his first restaurant at the age of 23.
Now he’s brought all of that experience and research back home to Chilliwack and is serving it up to folks at the Royal Hotel.
Jason and Miranda currently live in Vancouver where he’s the executive chef at Honey Salt (located in Parq Vancouver casino), and she’s a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at B.C. Women’s Hospital.
The two of them travel from Vancouver to Chilliwack about two to four days a week on their days off to operate the Wellington Local House and Royal Hotel Café where they’ve created brand new menus for each location.
“Ultimately we want to offer premium local ingredients,” he says.
They get their chicken from Kent’s Chicken Coop here in Chilliwack and dairy from Meadowfresh in Port Coquitlam.
“What we want to create is super-addicting flavours,” he says. He offered examples like their coconut curry, which is gluten-free and vegan, or their Korean barbecue “drums” using chicken drumsticks instead of wings.
“While creating those addicting flavours that people will remember, we want them to want to come back for them.”
They make all of their sauces, dips and stocks from scratch including gravy, soups, salad dressings and salsas. No pre-packaged or powdered mixes are used.
“We make virtually everything in house.”
Their Hollandaise sauce and poached eggs are made sous-vide, and “it’s perfect every single time.” Sous-vide is a modern cooking method where food is cooked under pressure in a warm water bath at low temperatures.
“The Hollandaise has been a hit,” he says.
They added a seniors’ menu as well, which they call the Big Kid Menu.
The two took ownership of the Royal Hotel Café (open daily at 7 a.m. for breakfast and lunch) and Wellington Local House (3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday) at the beginning of August. Food is from the same kitchen but it’s “two different concepts, two different menus.”
For the Wellington Local House the menu went from 75-plus items to 25.
“I’d rather do less dishes well than a million things mediocre,” says Jason.
Their most popular item is the buttermilk fried chicken, served with creamed corn, garlic mashed potatoes and gravy. Other items include bacon mac and cheese, Montreal smoked meat sandwich, and chicharrons (fried pork belly). The happy hour menu (3 to 6 p.m., and 9 to 11 p.m.) consists of seven drinks and five appetizers, all at $5 each.
Jason has worked with countless chefs at numerous restaurants over his 16 years.
“That mentorship has been such a big part in my career,” he says. “I really value the relationships that I’ve been able to build with my team because that’s been what has helped me to be successful.”
Wellington Local House and Royal Hotel Café are located inside the Royal Hotel at 45886 Wellington Ave.