What brought you into the restaurant industry?
I became a vegetarian when I was 18, and I’ve worked in vegetarian restaurants since then. Before I came to Canada I was working in a vegetarian restaurant in London. I met my first wife there and she brought me to Canada, and I just kept going over here.
I went to cooking school in London. That gave me a specific style that I’ve stuck with, more of an Asian influence. The Asian diet has always been more vegetarian, relying on grains and noodles and vegetables. I was drawn to that style of cooking and I’ve based our offerings of food around that style of eating. It’s what I consider classic whole foods style of cooking. It follows the vegetarian movement out of the UK which is where I’m from.
It’s just about simple, healthy food.
What brought you to Victoria?
Being on the West Coast, there’s an open mentality to doing things a little differently. All the way down the US coast too they’re more open. Its kind of the cutting edge of the natural foods industry on the West Coast. It’s nice to be here. There’s a lot of innovation going on.
It’s a nice sized city. Even now you can still get around by walking. It’s the perfect place.
What’s your guiding inspiration?
People have received what I’m doing well. I’ve been getting positive feedback. The most important thing in a restaurant is that the customers are satisfied.
You can usually tell, if the plates are coming back into the kitchen empty that’s a good sign! That’s what I’ve always watched for.
There’s been a lot of good leadership in the natural foods industry. There’s been a lot of positivity in the vegetarian movement from day one. When I first opened the restaurant John Robbins had just come out with a book called “Diet for a New America.” He was the son of the founder of Baskin Robbins but he turned his back on inheriting that business because he said it wasn’t good for the animals or the environment. His message has just gotten louder and louder. You read now everywhere about how people’s dietary choices impact the environment. It’s nice that it’s well received these days, the plant-based lifestyle as it’s now called is just exploding. It’s rewarding, being in this industry.
Have there been any major challenges?
The biggest challenge is staff turnover, but I’m really lucky to have a core of long-term employees. Some of them have been with me for twenty years. Quite often employees will go away and come back again which is nice. It can be a challenge with people coming and going, but I think that’s the same for any restaurant.
What do you like about Market Square?
Market Square has really come alive in the last few years. From a business perspective, we have good landlords and it’s nice and secure here.
There’s so many more people living downtown these days, that’s been really good for business too.
I feel that compared to 25 years ago downtown is just much more vibrant. More people living here draws more businesses in.
How has the restaurant changed over the years?
The core of the restaurant has stayed the same. We’ve always been a self-serve buffet. The buffet allows picky eaters to just take what they like and we see hardly any food waste coming back.
It was really successful from the beginning, I think it was just good timing. I just found an ad in the Colonist for a fully equipped restaurant for lease and I went for it. It was a wild game restaurant before I took it over, so a bit of a change there. I feel like maybe we were karmically drawn to it.
Green Cuisine is definitely not just for vegetarians either, the bulk of our customers are not. Come down and give us a try.