Culinary Director, Whistler
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’ newest book – containing 80 classic recipes complemented by striking photography – is available at Araxi Restaurant and fine book retailers.
Recent accolades for Araxi include Where Magazine’s Best Formal Whistler Restaurant and the Georgia Straight Golden Plate Awards' Best Whistler Restaurant.
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.
Jeff’s artistic talents come to him naturally from his early days as an Art Director with a boutique US-based agency to his years as an accomplished Chef with destination restaurants across Western Canada.
As a Dubrulle Culinary School graduate in 2003, Jeff found his calling at Whistler’s Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar, where he would become Executive Chef James Walt’s Chef de Partie and eventually earn the title of Sous Chef. Four years of solid training with an inherent shared passion for regionally-sourced cuisine, Jeff honed his skills in kitchen operations, mentoring, and the art of farm-to-table dining.
In 2007, Jeff took the opportunity to move to Calgary and join the acclaimed Blink Restaurant & Bar and Chef’s Table at the Kensington Riverside Inn in Executive Sous and Chef roles, respectively. Throughout his time with each of these senior roles, his culinary talents would be recognized by accolades such as enRoute Magazine’s Best New Restaurant and Where Magazine’s Best Hotel Dining.
Jeff’s love of the west coast would see a return to Araxi Restaurant in 2011 to rejoin James Walt and the team as Chef de Cuisine. Integral to Araxi’s multiple restaurant accolades such as Maclean’s Top 50 Canada’s Best Restaurants and Where Magazine’s Whistler’s Best Fine Dining, Jeff’s love of cooking would become a draw for guests near and far.
The opportunity to own his own restaurant became a reality in 2016 when Jeff would partner with longtime colleague, Pat Allan to open The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar in Squamish. Multiple restaurant accolades would soon find this hidden gem of a restaurant a destination in its own right.
Today, Jeff’s home is again the Araxi kitchen for the third time in his career and with the well-deserved title of Executive Chef.
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.
Vice President, Operations
With over twenty years of experience in the hospitality industry, Geoff is a natural leader with a passion for exceptional front-of-house service and authentic dining experiences. He is committed to providing an inclusive environment, ensuring guests feel welcome and at ease.
From assignments in the Caribbean with the Gansevoort Hotel Group to working with renowned global brands like Momofuku in Toronto, he’s successfully managed diverse teams of professionals to their highest potential and been recognized as the driving force behind multiple restaurants’ seamless and genuine guest service.
Restaurant Manager + Wine Director
After over 20 years in the hospitality industry including the past 9 years at Araxi, Vancouver born Jason Kawaguchi oversees the 1000+ labels that have made Araxi a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner since 2000.
Continuing studies under WSET and the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as travelling through Italy’s storied wine regions of Tuscany, Piedmont, and Veneto, have deepened. Jason’s understanding of terroir from both a food and wine perspective.
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.