Meet the 40 finalists in the running for our 2019 Foodies of the Year competition.

Every year we scour Western Canada for the people making this a delicious place to live—and every year we’re blown away by the fresh faces and astounding accomplishments that shape our region’s incredible food scene.

It’s why putting together our annual Foodies of the Year list is such a thrill: it’s our chance to celebrate and honour the taste-makers and risk-takers shifting the needle.

Next, our top 10 FOTY winners will be announced Friday, July 12, 2019 here on They’ll also be featured in Western Living’s July/August issue (keep an eye on our Twitter and Instagram for updates). For now, though, we’re honoured to announce our 2019 Foodies of the Year finalists: 40 of the West’s most interesting chefs, activists, restaurateurs, sommeliers, brewmasters, writers and distillers right now. Congratulations all…and thank you for all you do.

  1. Adam Smith (Founder and Master Distiller, Strathcona Spirits Distillery, Edmonton) Smith uses locally sourced ingredients to crank out crowd-pleasing, small-batch spirits—including the Single Grain Wheat Vodka, which scored best in class at last year’s Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition—at Edmonton’s first distillery.
  2. Arlie and Brett LaRoche (Owners, Farm One Forty and Odla, Saskatoon) The husband-and-wife team run Saskatoon’s go-to farm for sustainable, holistically raised meats, and they’re expanding their culinary reach with Odla, a farm-to-table restaurant that will further forward the eat-local philosophy.
  3. Ben Staley (Chef and Owner, Yarrow, Edmonton) Staley’s previous restaurants, Alta and Alder Room, both earned nods on EnRoute’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants list. Now, the restaurateur is going for the triple with Yarrow, a cozy 10-seater that will spotlight locally sourced ingredients in inventive tasting plates.
  4. Bryn Rawlyk (Baker and Owner, Night Oven Bakery and Darkside Donuts, Saskatoon) The self-taught carb king dives deeper into sweets with an assortment of inventive rings at Darkside Donuts, the city’s first (and only) specialty doughnut shop.
  5. Carolina and Raya Konrad (Owners, Clementine, Winnipeg) The sisters and Chef (and part owner) Chris Gama are shaking up Winnipeg’s dining scene with an imaginative lineup of cocktails and equally inspired brunch and late-night plates.
  6. Chams Sbouai (Chef and Owner, Sweet Boy Cream Puffs, Vancouver) The once roving creator of some of Vancouver’s tastiest cream puffs has found a home at Ubuntu Canteen, where his desserts are now served on the reg.
  7. Dan Colyer (Brewmaster, Fuggles and Warlock Craftworks, Richmond, B.C.) Fuggles’s motto is “Keeping beer weird.” And Colyer and crew have done just that with suds like blackberry sours and espresso milk stouts, many of which have fans in places as far away as Taiwan and South Korea.
  8. Danielle and Adam Keil (Brewers and Owners, Mountainview Brewing Co., Hope, B.C.) After a stint working for Moody Ales in the heart of Brewer’s Row, the couple are returning to their hometown to open the city’s first brewery.
  9. Darren MacLean (Chef and Owner, Shokunin and Barshoku, Calgary) The only Canadian chef featured on Netflix’s The Final Table, MacLean follows up his award-winning izakaya, Shokukin, with Barshoku, a soon-to-open spot that will showcase fin-to-scale cuisine.
  10. Deanne and Delaney Schweitzer (Founders, Turf, Vancouver) The sisters and ex-Lululemon employees sure know their audience: their fitness-studio-shop-and-café concept offers a cool place to hang in the yoga capital of Canada—and it cooks up some nourishing food, to boot.
  11. Denver Mace (Owner, Koji Fine Foods, Langley, B.C.) A hobby chef turned entrepreneur, Mace crafts the kitchen staple we didn’t know we needed: shio koji or koji salt, a fermented rice seasoning that enhances the umami in foods.
  12. Doug Stephens and Lindsey Mann (Chefs and Owners, Downlow Chicken Shack, Vancouver) The restaurant vets shuttered their beloved Merchant’s Workshop to bring Nashville hot chicken to the masses—a move that’s paid off in spades, if the consistent queue outside Downlow is any indication.
  13. Gianmarco Colannino (Owner, Trans Am, Vancouver) He’s the man behind one of Vancouver’s buzziest dive bars, one that’s known as much for its killer cocktails as it is for its ice-breaking no-phone policy.
  14. Jason and Alayne MacIsaac (Owners, Sheringham Distillery, Sooke, B.C.) The pair craft small-batch spirits that have captured the attention of imbibers from around the globe: their Seaside Gin was crowned the world’s best contemporary gin at this year’s World Gin Awards.
  15. Jill Van Gyn (Founder and CEO, Fatso Peanut Butter, Victoria) Forget jam—there’s a new J (Jill!) in PB town as Van Gyn takes her all-natural, superfat-loaded spreads from coast to coast.
  16. Joe and Blessing Obirai (Owners, BeeRain, Saskatoon) The husband-and-wife duo are bringing the breads native to their home country of Nigeria—loaves swirled with flavours of chocolate, green tea and purple yam—to the Prairies.
  17. Jon and Sher Alcock (Farmers and Owners, Sunshine Farm, Kelowna, B.C.) The couple and their family are pioneers in the organic growing scene, and supply seasonal produce, plants and seeds to the community, as well as vocational opportunities for people of all abilities.
  18. Kevin Kent (Owner and President, Knifewear, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver) The self-described knife nerd has introduced countless home cooks to razor-sharp Japanese blades through his empire of stores, his new Knifenerd book and a well-received blacksmith doc, Springhammer.
  19. Letitia Wan (Head Chef, Caffe La Tana, Vancouver) After stints at Ask for Luigi and di Beppe, Wan extends her Italian know-how to neighbourhood spot Caffe La Tana, where she fine-tunes fresh pastas and lunch plates.
  20. Marc-André Choquette (Executive Chef, The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge, Rossland, B.C.) At the helm in the kitchen at Rossland’s newest boutique hotel, The Josie, Choquette is elevating cuisine in the Kootenay Rockies region.
  21. Mark Tagulao (Founder and Culinary Director, La Glace, Vancouver) His French-inspired ice cream parlour is the crème de la crème of Vancouver’s dessert scene. But with a new selection of vegan options, he’s proving he’s more than just a dairy king.
  22. Matthew Davis (Baker and Owner, The Cookie Guy, Victoria) With a second Uptown location now open, Victoria’s cookie king has twice the reach to sling his fresh-baked sweets still warm from the oven
  23. Michael Shindler (Winemaker and Owner, A Sunday in August, Okanagan, B.C.) Natural wine finds its laid-back ambassador in Shindler, who attempts to bottle the taste of summer with wine that’s, well, fun.
  24. Miho Kataoka (Sake Specialist, Yuwa, Vancouver) In addition to curating the best Japanese restaurant wine list in the city, Kataoka is on a mission to spread the sake love with a smartly curated cellar and expert pairings.
  25. Patricia and Andrea Blendl (Owner-Operators, Solecito, North Vancouver, B.C.) The Mexican-Canadian mother-daughter duo make fresh salsas (roja and verde) that pack a punch.
  26. Rachel Zottenberg (Partner, Rachel and David Inc., proprietors of Key Party, The Emerald, Rumpus Room, The Narrow, and more, Vancouver) The swingin’ ’70s speakeasy she opened on Main Street this year is yet another addition to Zottenberg’s empire of fun.
  27. Rae Kung (Managing Director, Chinese Restaurant Awards, Richmond, B.C.) Chinese restaurants are a critical component of YVR’s DNA, and Kung champions the scene.
  28. Richard Sehmer and Andrew Harris (Managing Director and CEO, Craft Collective Beerworks, Vancouver) As Canada’s only collaborative craft brewery, Craft Collective acts as assistant brewers, lab techs, canners and more for micro-breweries itching to scale up.
  29. Richter Bai (Owner, Phantom Creek Estates, Oliver, B.C.) His $100 million investment is one of the largest ever to come to the Okanagan’s wine scene, and likely will push Oliver onto the world stage.
  30. Ross Alger (Owner and Distiller, Confluence Distilling, Calgary) Though Alger’s cool little bar lies off the beaten path in an industrial mall, it’s worth the trip thanks to special collaborations, vinyl nights and happy hours.
  31. Ryan and Roselina Hotchkiss (Owners, Bündok, Edmonton) The couple’s menu of chef-driven seasonal small plates impressed critics enough to land Bündok on EnRoute’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants list in 2018.
  32. Ryan Moreno and André Bourque (Founders, Joseph Richard Group, B.C.) Turn your nose up at chains all you want: Joseph Richard Group is growing like crazy without cookie-cutter pandering in Metro Vancouver’s suburbs.
  33. Sam Fabbro (Executive Chef, El Santo and Amaranthus, New Westminster, B.C.) New West’s cool factor continues to grow, thanks largely in part to culinary offerings like Fabbro’s. His Northern Mexican fare impressed at El Santo, and now with the opening of plant-based Amaranthus at River Market, he’s officially the godfather of the city’s food scene.
  34. Shane Chartrand (Executive Chef, SC at River Cree, Edmonton) With an upcoming cookbook and a starring role in new documentary series Red Chef Revival, Chartrand is shining a spotlight on modern Indigenous cuisine.
  35. Shoel Davidson (Founder and President, Mind the Bar, Vancouver) Davidson’s mental-health initiative, Mind the Bar, aims to improve mental health among hospitality employees, demonstrating that, sometimes, the secret to great service is putting yourself first.
  36. Stephen and Jeremy Schacht (Distillers, Ampersand Distilling, Duncan, B.C.) Engineers by trade and distillers by passion, the Cowichan Valley father-son team turns organic B.C. grain award-winning gin.
  37. Tatsuya Katagiri and Yoshiaki Maniwa (Chefs and Owners, Stem Japanese Eatery, Burnaby, B.C.) The former Zest chefs impress so much with their fresh Japanese fare that they won Vancouver magazine’s 2019 award for Best New Restaurant, despite their Burnaby address.
  38. Thayne Robstad and Beth Rogers (Chefs and Owners, Hearth, Saskatoon) They met and grew up in Saskatoon and then left to hone their culinary craft in Vancouver…only to return, eager to celebrate their hometown with contemporary Prairies cuisine and foraged ingredients.
  39. Wendy Au Yeung ( Founder, Happy Woman Kitchen, Vancouver) Au Yeung coordinates a network of dumpling-wrapping grandmas and DTES women for pop-up events in Chinatown and the DTES, and empowers the crew to share both their cooking and wisdom.
  40. Woody Wu (Managing Partner, Origo Club, Richmond) A French-focused, wine-forward restaurant brings a little taste of something different to Richmond’s food scene.