When long-time chef Nicholas Waters first started Toque Catering in 2013, he never expected it to take off.
“To be honest, I thought I’d be doing one function a weekend,” he says with a laugh. “I didn’t think anything of it. Then all of a sudden, it turned into an animal.”
Toque grew from just five full-timers three years ago to a staff almost 30 strong today, and the wealth of talent in Nick’s kitchen is enviable.
“We run with 10 to 12 executive chefs full time in the kitchen,” he says. “It’s one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with.”
About the same time Toque took off, Nick relocated to Metchosin, and the locale has been ideal both personally and professionally.
“The bigger we’ve gotten, the more local we’ve become,” he says.
Toque is booked at least a year in advance, so Nick and his team have been able to approach local farmers well ahead of season to plan out orders, translating to reliable income for the small agriculture sector, as well as premium ingredients.
And though Nick says he doesn’t want to grow too big too fast, there are definitely some new and exciting directions coming down the pipe.
The 7 Sins
Whose shoes would you like to walk in?
I am on my own journey in life and wouldn’t change a thing, good or bad, but I would love to be Michel Bras in Normandy, France for a day. He has been my favourite chef in the world since I was 18! His book is still better than most out there and it’s almost 20 years old.
What is the food you could eat over and over again?
That is definitely a hard one, but I would say gyoza. No matter whether I’m at a pub, home or a high-end restaurant, 10 out of 10 times I will order it if it’s on the menu.
You’re given $1 million that you have to spend selfishly. What would you spend it on?
I would travel all through Europe and eat and drink and just eat and drink until it was gone. Spain, Portugal, France, Italy — let’s face it, the money would be gone by then!
Everything, almost … but the freezers and coolers being a mess has to be the one that makes me think I’m going to have a heart attack.
Where would you spend a long time doing nothing?
What is the one thing you’re secretly proud of?
It won’t be a secret anymore if I say this, but it would be the team — chefs, dishwashers, operations, planners, on-site service staff, rentals and anyone else I’m missing — and the culture we’ve been able to create at Toque. I am grateful every day that I get to work alongside a very, very talented group. I actually like working with them all and don’t have a bad thing to say. They’ve all become my family.
What makes your heart beat faster?
Being on-site when shit hits the fan — like a barbecue falls off the top and an oven doesn’t work, etc. That shit turns me on when you come out of it unscathed and everything went perfectly, except your soul becomes a little darker!
I love the unknown and being able to make something out of nothing. The best was four or five years ago when the guys got me an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. They said, “Well, it’s on. Let’s see what you can do with this!’”