Remember the days when a shared meal was a chance to sit back, enjoy the food and catch up with everyone sitting around the table?
Well, local chef Bonnie Friesen is bringing those good times back, with her gourmet home catering business, Faspa and Company. She started her company about two years ago, and already has received accolades for her ingenuity, including a Chilliwack Chamber Business Excellence Award for Young Entrepreneur.
“I grew up in a family who loved food,” she says, sitting down for a coffee in the new Garrison Starbucks. “And my mom was an adventurous cook.”
But that early love of food didn’t start to play a role until years later, after one year of studying at UFV.
“Nothing really was clicking,” she says of her studies. So she decided to try something completely different, and enrolled in the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts.
She knew right away she had made the right choice. The school is located at Granville Island, a colourful, artsy waterside district in Vancouver with a bustling fresh food market.
“There was something about being in the busy city,” she says. “It’s so vibrant, all the colours and flavours.”
The jump into culinary arts, and her chosen school, included a happy coincidence. This was in 2010, and the institute was involved in feeding athletes and special visitors from around the world, including royalty. She had her first big stage, at the Vancouver Club, and went on to earn her Red Seal certification. From there, she found her way to Restaurant 62, working with chef Jeff Massey.
She’s bringing all those experiences and more to the table, as one of Chilliwack’s freshest entrepreneurs.
Faspa and Company started out with a few small, home catering gigs for friends and family. Now, she’s kept busy with requests all over Chilliwack, and enjoys being invited into people’s homes to create beautiful meals.
“I’m humbled that people let me do that,” she says. “I love all the different spaces and different kitchens.”
She sources all her ingredients locally, and much like her days in Granville Island, pores over the fresh offerings at markets. The chef is fond of Abundant Acres, Hofstede’s, Agassiz’s Farm House Cheese Market, the Farm Store in Yarrow, and her friend’s new business, Flavourful Farms – just for starters.
It gives her a chance to support other local businesses, and ensure the food she serves is local, and often organic.
It’s a huge part of who she is, and what she offers as a chef.
“I am incredibly passionate about the bounty that the Pacific North Coast has to offer,” she says on her website. “Because of the potential and variety of our local fare, it is my aim to promote the artisans, farmers and harvest found in our own backyard.”
But she’s not just providing a meal, she’s offering an experience in dining that our society seems to have moved away from. Friesen had the opportunity to take a six month trip through Europe. While there, she fell in love with how connected Europeans seemed to be with their food. The food was more local, more honoured. And meal times weren’t something to be rushed, they were times to be enjoyed with the ones you love.
Since good food shouldn’t be rushed, she focuses on slowing down her meals. She wants her clients to relax and enjoy their evening, while she takes care of the details. She’ll even bring in a 26-foot, handcrafted table, for meals in natural settings, backyards, and gardens. She’s hoping to host long table “pop-up” dinners in unique locations around the valley.
Beyond dinner parties, Friesen has also been holding cooking classes and public demonstrations to help educate people about local foods and how to use them.
“I like giving them the power to do it on their own,” she says.
But if you really want to sit back and relax, she’s there to help you.
“I truly am passionate about Chilliwack,” she says. “It took moving away to know what we have here, surrounded by mountains and beautiful fields. It’s a very exciting place to be a chef.”