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 now takes the reins at the reimagined Il Caminetto as Executive Chef to bring a modern interpretation of Italian classics to the mountainside resort.
James is Whistler’s only chef to cook at the celebrated James Beard House in New York City where he has performed on four 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 2018 accolades for Araxi include Where Magazine’s Best Formal Whistler Restaurant, Georgia Straight Golden Plate Awards' Best Whistler Restaurant, and 100 Best Restaurants in Canada.
James lives in nearby Squamish where he works closely with local farmers and producers and personally selects the freshest ingredients featured on the Araxi menu.
Chef Quang Dang began his culinary career at West, where he worked as junior sous chef. Over the next five years, while honing his technique in some of Vancouver’s finest kitchens, Quang quickly established himself as an advocate of sustainability and a champion of West Coast cuisine, a role that he continues to undertake in defining his approach to modern cookery.
Raised in Calgary, Alberta, with family roots that stretch back to Scotland and the orchards and rice fields of Vietnam, Chef Dang originally moved to Vancouver in 1998 to finish his engineering degree and fulfill a dream to train for the Olympics with Canada's national field hockey team. Part-time positions in the hospitality industry soon won him over, though, and his culinary career began in earnest. Quang went on to compete in a number of international food competitions such as the Bocuse D'Or in Lyon France, the National Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in Winnipeg and as a Canadian representative at the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, the largest of its kind.
Quang returned ‘home’ to West as Executive Chef in September 2011. “Every day brings a new adventure,” he says, “defined by the seasons and the extraordinary ingredients available to us in Vancouver. It is my privilege to work alongside one of the finest culinary and service brigades in the country.”
As of October 2017, Chef Quang makes his new home behind the stoves at Araxi Restaurant to continue the legacy of James Walt’s cooking. Just a stone’s throw from his former kitchen, Chef Walt will continue to collaborate and work with Chef Quang and the Araxi brigade in conjunction with his new responsibilities at Il Caminetto.
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.
A passionate sommelier and world-traveller, Samantha arrived at Araxi in October, 2007 following a tour through Burgundy. Smitten by the world of wine, Samantha would transform this mountain resort’s appetite and palate for a true appreciation of food and wine.
Trained at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and with over 20 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.
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.