We'll admit it: while our annual search for Western Canada's top food innovators—Foodies of the Year—leaves us inspired, it also leaves us hungry. (So! Many! Bakeries!)

But we don't let that stop us from poring over your nominations, collecting intel from our city editors and digging deep into local food scenes across the West to see who's really moving the dial. We're committed each year to spotlighting the people making this a delicious place to live—from chefs to brewmasters, from cookbook authors to growers, from sommeliers to restaurateurs—and each year we're floored by the amount of sheer talent to be found in our culinary scene.

Our top 10 FOTY winners will be announced Friday, March 7, 2020 here on westernliving.ca (keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram for updates). They’ll also be featured in Western Living’s March issue. For now, though, please join us in raising a glass in honour of this list of our 2020 Foodies of the Year  Finalists: these are 40 of the tastemakers, innovators and damn good cooks that wowed our editorial team. Congratulations to each and every one of you.

Western Living's Foodies of the Year Finalists for 2020

  1. Alan Dickinson (Winemaker, Synchromesh, Okanagan Falls, B.C.) The terroir-driven wines Dickinson is pumping out from the Synchromesh vineyards are expressive and intruiging, and put B.C. on the world stage.
  2. Andrew Mavor and Clark Deutscher (Chefs and Owners, Nowhere, Victoria) The chefs behind Victoria’s Hanks doubled down on West Coast seafood with their new room, and managed to snag a spot on EnRoute’s top 10 best new restaurants in Canada in the process.
  3. Bailey Williamson (Winemaker, Blue Grouse Estate Winery, Duncan, BC) Williamson first started turning heads at Road 13 as the assistant winemaker with a knack for sparkling chenins; now he’s leading Blue Grouse into a transition towards organic while honing his ortega and pinot noir chops.
  4. Ben Anderson (Organizer, Bar Venner, Victoria) Bar Venner means “just friends” in Danish, and industry and foodies become just that over these monthly chef showcase dinners that profile the city’s talent and exciting natural wine picks.
  5. Brian Skinner and Christina Skinner (Chefs and Owners, Frankie We Salute You, Kelowna, BC) The former Acorn head chef teams up with his equally veg-savvy wife to bring what might be the province’s best plant-based gourmet-casual dining to an unassuming Kelowna strip mall.
  6. Keenan Pascal (Owners, Token Bitters, Edmonton) A chemical engineer, a bar-owner and a bartender combined forces to create a new line of locally inspired bitters, concocted from organic and local ingredients and named for the Edmonton neighbourhoods and streets they love. 
  7. Christa Bruneau-Guenther (Chef and Owner, Feast Café Bistro, Winnipeg) Bruneau-Guenther zeroes on First Nations’ fare with a restaurant focused on sourcing ingredients from Indigenous producers, hiring staff with employment barriers and serving up dishes that celebrate Manitoba’s native plants and animals. 
  8. Claire Livia Lassam and Jordan Pires (Owners, Livia, Vancouver) The last thing Commercial Drive needed was another Italian bakery, but somehow partners Lassam and Pires made their cozy-chic café feel fresh and irresistible anyways—we suspect it’s the sourdough cornetti and Italian coffee.
  9. Cyrille Koppert (Chef and Owner, Partake, Edmonton) A little French restaurant in Edmonton’s High Street ’hood swinging above its weight with perfectly executed rustic classics like vol-au-vent and brown-butter drenched potatoes.
  10. Darren and Jody Hollett (Owners, House of Funk Brewing Co., North Vancouver) The North Vancouver brewery found a missing niche in an already-crowded craft beer market with their wild beers and sours—beers with “a bit of loudness” and a lot of funk.

  11. Denver Mace (Owner, Koji Fine Foods, North Vancouver) Starting with his first product, Koji salt—fermented Koji rice that’s an umami-rich replacement for traditional salt—Mace has gone on to create addictively simple and delicious fresh miso balls, and soon to be released, soy sauce from Canada’s first and only soy sauce microbrewery.

  12. D.L. Acken and Emily Lycopolus (Authors, Cedar and Salt, Salt Spring Island and Victoria) Cedar and Salt is less of a cookbook, and more of a love letter to Vancouver Island—a place where heritage Red Fife wheat sprouts in the central island, olive trees grow in the Cowichan Valley and prawns, salmon and crabs practically leap from the water to plate along the coast.

  13. Jeff Savage (Head Bartender, Botanist, Vancouver) The Diageo World Class Canada champion continues a fine tradition of keeping that title on the west coast (and was just barely edged out from taking home the World trophy, too).
  14. Jenn Sharp (Food Writer, Flat Out Food, Saskatoon) Sharp spent the last year riding the backroads of Saskatchewan, discovering and covering the people make, grow, cook and produce food in her home province—the results of which will become a food-focussed travelogue, Flat Out Delicious, this coming spring.

  15. Jessica Pautsch Regan (CEO and Founder, FoodMesh, Vancouver) As part of her startup FoodMesh—which diverts discarded non-perishables to charities and food banks—Regan created the innovative Food Recovery Program, which helps retailers like Save On Foods divert 100 percent of their perishables (both edible and nonedible) to charities, farmers and composters.

  16. John Cote and Barb Stefanyshyn-Cote (Owners, Black Fox Farm and Distillery, Saskatoon) One of the few farm-to-flask distilleries in North America, Black Fox creates their award-winning spirits from the produce harvested from their sustainable farm just south of Saskatoon. You’ll already find their oaked gin in Denmark, and now they’re headed to win over hearts in China.

  17. Julie Van Rosendaal (Cookbook Author, Dirty Food, Calgary) With the release of Dirty Food, Van Rosendaal’s “playful pushback against the concept of clean eating,” she celebrates the inherent messiness of what food means to all of us—sure, it’s fuel, but it’s cultural, historical, social and emotional, and we can’t live life on raw smoothie bowls alone.

  18. Justin Witcher, Shaun Layton and Frankie Harrington (Chef and Co-owners, Como Taperia, Vancouver) The industry veterans teamed up in late 2018 to transform a quiet corner of Main and 7th into a buzzy, busy, Barcelona-esque tapas bar, helping Vancouverites leave their rainy selves at the door for a night of on-tap vermouth, bowls of G&Ts and excellent Spanish treats.

  19. Kailyn Chun (Owner, Salty Cabbage, Vancouver) Owner Kailyn Chun wants you to know that that vat of industrial kimchi you’re buying is not a good representation of Korea’s condiment git to the world. Her bespoke creations (with hip package designed by Glasfurd and Walker) drop the refined sugars and amp up the pure tastes in variations like White (with Napa Cabbage) or Radish (with daikon).

  20. Karri Schuermans (Owner, Chambar, Vancouver) Not many restaurants make it to 15 years, and very few do it while still being as busy as day one. But under Schuermans leadership, Chambar is that rare breed—a spot that both classic and exciting. In her spare time, she drives green initiatives from her board positions at the Vancouver Economic Commission and the Greater Vancouver Innovation Capital.

  21. Kevin Huang (Activist, Hua Foundation, Vancouver) Huang’s Choi project seeks to bring awareness both the importance of locally grown produce and to highlight the traditional role the immigrant community has had in creation and selling of fruits and vegetables in the region. The goal: more green grocers, less big box stores.

  22. Lindsay Porter (Chef/Owner, London Local, Edmonton) Edmonton’s deep south seems an unlikely place for honest-to-goodness British food, but it’s here that chef Porter (and partner Evaline Li) dish up the classics—scotch eggs, Eton mess, a proper Sunday roast—to a growing legion of fans who’ll travel south to get a taste of jolly old.

  23. Marie-Luce Denis and Brad Labrenz (Bakers and Owners, French 50, Okotoks, AB) This family-run microbakery is all about the hard-crusted, naturally levened, worth-the-drive-from-Calgary loaves. 
  24. Margot Micallef (Founder, Gabriella’s Kitchen, Calgary) We’re still in the Wild West phase of marijuana legalization, but Micallef is already a step ahead of the pack bring some business savvy to the soon-to-explode edibles sector. From infused olive oils to vegan chocolate she’s curating a portfolio that’s more Thomas Keller than Cheech and Chong.

  25. Maude Renaud-Brisson (Founder, Apéro Mode, Vancouver) The city is fully in the thralls of wine bar fever and while each spot has its own charms, it’s this monthly get-together curated by local somm Renaud-Brisson that best captures the relaxed, buzzy, jovial spirit of that hole in the wall in the 9th Arrondissement that you went to last summer. And it’s cheaper than that Air France ticket.

  26. Mikey Robbins (Chef/Owner, AnnaLena, Their There, Hundy, Vancouver) Robbin’s classy Kits spot AnnaLena has been one of the toughest tables to score for the past several years so it should come as small wonder that his new 4th Ave. coffee shop, Their There has been packed since day one, and the crowds only get bigger at night when it morphs into Hundy, the city’s newest purveyor of house-made burgers.

  27. Natasha Peiskar (Head Brewer, Last Best Brewing and Distilling, CalgaryIt’s not quite turning water into wine, but Natasha Peiskar is taking unused and stale bread from the Palliser’s Hawthorn Dining Room and crafting beer from their leftover loaves. The brew, aptly named Our Daily Bread, is available at Hawthorn, and one dollar from every pint goes to the Calgary Food Bank. 

  28. Patrick Do (Chef/Owner, Do Chay, Vancouver) Standing out in Vancouver’s crowded Vietnamese restaurant sector is no small feat; doing with a fully vegetarian (almost vegan) menu? Now that’s something. But since opening last year, Do’s Kingsway room has seen constant line-ups as diners clamour for his well priced, perfectly executed takes on Vietnamese fare.

  29. Paul Moran (Chef, 1909 Kitchen, Tofino) How good a chef is Paul Moran? He’s been able to turn 1909 Kitchen into Tofino’s culinary hotspot, even though it’s on the marina side of town (i.e. forget crashing waves). But this chef with an international resume (Dubai, Paris, Nice) has all his patrons concentrating solely on plates such as his show-stopping cabbage rolls with ling cod, scallops and side-strip shrimp.

  30. Quinn Palmer and Michela Byl (Founders, Rootside Soda and the Esquimalt Wine Company, Esquimalt B.C.) Fueled by the stress of student loan debt, this power duo founded Rootside Soda in 2015, and their bubbly drinks concocted in self-made production equipment is now sold all over B.C. They started the Esquimalt Wine Company last year, with a new focus on vermouth aperitifs.

  31. Robert Cassels (Chef, Saveur, Victoria) In 2019, Cassels snagged three awards (we call that a chef’s hat trick) from YAM, including Restaurant of the Year, Best Fine Dining and Best Brunch. He’s turned stuffy French food exciting in a restaurant-dense (and brunch-obsessed) Victoria. 

  32. Shira McDermott and Janna Bishop (Co-founders, Flourist, Vancouver) This pair’s Vancouver bakery focuses on simple ingredients, but is anything but basic: think milled-to-order flour, house-made sourdough sweet toasts and whole grain salads.

  33. Shiva Reddy (Executive Wine Director, Osteria Savio Volpe, Pepino's Spaghetti House, Caffe La Tana, Vini Volpe, Vancouver) Ever since having a bad somm experience herself, Reddy has worked to make wine service more accessible and fun; she shares her knowledge through the four wine programs she runs in Vancouver. 

  34. Tarn and Toom (Chefs, Dumpling Drop, Victoria) Dumpling Drop is exactly what it sounds like—this underground dumpling delivery service in Chinatown makes and freezes dumplings twice a week, then drops them off at your door.

  35. Taylor Whelan and Neil Taylor (Winemaker, Cedar Creek, and Chef, Home Block, Okanagan) Whelan’s premium, terroir-driven wines (now certified organic!) and Taylor’s farm-to-table cuisine are a match made in, well, the Okanagan. 

  36. Trent and Ria Kitsch (Owners, Kitsch Wines, Kelowna) This duo brings a breath of fresh air to the winery industry in the Okanagan. After selling the successful Saxx underwear brand, the unpretentious couple moved back to their hometown of Kelowna and launched their single-vineyard, oh-so-buzzy and sustainably grown wines.

  37. Trevor Kallies (Bar and Beverage Director, The Donnelly Group, Vancouver) Despite 20+ years in the hospitality industry, the Donnelly Group is still coming up with cool under-the-radar concepts like Sing Sing, with Kallies setting the bar (pun intended) for Vancouver’s cocktail scene. 

  38. Trixie Ling (Activist and Founder, Flavours of Hope, Vancouver) Ling founded Flavours of Hope, in March 2018. Her nonprofit aims to empower refugee women through cooking and sharing culinary traditions and stories.

  39. Warren Barr and Lily Verney-Downey (Chef and Owner, Pluvio, Ucluelet, B.C.) Barr and Verney-Downey have been serving up local cuisine from the tiny Pluvio for just under a year, but have already earned a Top 10 spot in enRoute Magazine’s best new restaurants category.

  40. Woody Wu (Owner, Origo Club, Richmond B.C.) Wu’s cozy eatery-meets-art-gallery puts on high-end events (think chef’s special dinners like truffles and Chinese New Year feasts) at an accessible price point.

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