One of the country’s leading chefs, cookbook author and “farm-to-table” pioneer James Walt continues to inspire his guests, creating compelling regional cuisine based on local, sustainable ingredients. A graduate of the Stratford Chefs School, his impressive culinary career spans across several of British Columbia’s leading restaurants including a four-year tenure at Sooke Harbour House and as opening chef to sister restaurant Blue Water Cafe in Vancouver. James was also Executive Chef to the Canadian Embassy in Rome, Italy; an experience that helped shape the way he cooks today.
James is Whistler’s only chef to cook at the celebrated James Beard House in New York City where he has performed on three separate occasions. He has been voted best chef in Whistler by Pique Newsmagazine and was inducted into the British Columbia Restaurant Association Hall of Fame in 2011.
As a follow-up to his James Beard–nominated first cookbook, James and his team share recipes from Araxi Restaurant’s dining room and signature Araxi Longtable Dinner events, all adapted for delicious home cooking in Araxi: Roots to Shoots, Farm Fresh Recipes. James’ new book – containing 80 classic recipes complemented by striking photography – is available at Araxi Restaurant and fine book retailers.
Recent 2016 accolades for Araxi include Vancouver Magazine’s Best Whistler Restaurant, Where Magazine’s Best Formal Whistler Restaurant, and Top 100 Best Restaurants in Canada.
James lives in nearby Pemberton where he works closely with local farmers and producers and personally selects the freshest ingredients featured on the Araxi menu.
Born in North York, Ontario, Aaron Heath is a graduate of Toronto’s George Brown Culinary College. He first joined the culinary brigade at Araxi in 1996, and attributes his love of food to the backyard garden of his childhood home. Today, Aaron is inspired by smaller scale, artisanal baking – and modernizing traditional recipes. Aaron’s seasonal dessert menu showcases local orchard fruits and berries, as well as a premium chocolates and house-baked breads.
Glasgow-born Neil Henderson’s first taste of Whistler came in the summer of 1992, having graduated from Edinburgh with a business degree, and following several years of experience throughout the United States, New Zealand and various European ski resorts. Neil obtained his Higher Certificate from the Wines & Spirits Education Trust in 2001, and followed this with a full Sommelier accreditation from the International Sommelier Guild in 2004. Neil was promoted to Restaurant Director in 1999, the same year Araxi was first named “Best Whistler Restaurant” at the Vancouver Magazine Awards. In 2012, Neil was awarded the “Premier Crew Service Award” by Vancouver Magazine.
Restaurant Manager + Wine Director
A passionate sommelier and world-traveler, Samantha arrived at Araxi in October, 2007 following a tour through Burgundy. Previously residing in Banff, Rahn was Wine Director at the award-winning Maple Leaf Grille for six years where she led the restaurant to numerous recognitions, including Wine Spectator’s ‘Best of’ Award of Excellence.
Trained at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and with over 15 years of hospitality experience, Samantha sources exciting, value-driven wines to complement Araxi's highly acclaimed, 11,000 bottle library. In 2013, Samantha won the title of "Sommelier of the Year" at the Vancouver International Wine Festival and was recognized with the “Premier Crew Service Award” at the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. An accomplished musician, Samantha is also a former snowboard cross racer, certified snowboard coach and avid downhill mountain bike competitor.
Ontario native Darin Newton took his degree in psychology and human resources at Bishops University before entering the food service industry. More recently he has completed the International Sommelier Guild Diploma (top of class in service), and the advanced Wine and Spirit Education Trust diploma, with distinction. He most recently served as assistant manager and sommelier at Whistler’s Rim Rock Restaurant. His education and personable manner have served him well, or as he says, “My passion comes from the dynamic nature of the industry – it is ever-changing, and I always look forward to finding innovative wine pairings and to interacting with our diverse clientele. I want our guests to take away a personal connection with Araxi.” Darin is also an experienced rock climbing guide, and in addition to peaks in the Whistler area, has climbed many others across the world.
Restaurant Manager +
Assistant Wine Director
Vancouver-born Jason Kawaguchi has worked at Araxi for almost seven years, culminating in his position as Assistant Wine Director. Jason is currently studying to become a WSET Level II Masters Sommelier. He has an 18-year resumé in the food service industry, including a seven-year stint managing Langley's La Masia Restaurant.
From his grandparents' farm in Vernon, Jason learned the value of the land. "They grew just about everything. From them I discovered the hard work involved in creating a meal from start to finish," Jason says. "Their ethos drives my passion for learning the story behind the wine and sharing that story with guests so they can enjoy a complete experience."
Since 2001, Rene has welcomed both an international and local clientele to The Bar at Araxi. The Bar offers Araxi’s full wine list, martinis made from fresh produce, and a broad selection of single malt scotch and bourbons. Rene began his hospitality career at hotel school in Zurich, going on to gain practical experience at hotels in Lausanne, Zermatt and Villars.
Before moving to Whistler, Rene held management positions at restaurants throughout Calgary, Vancouver, and Australia.