Our Red Seal Chefs
At Merridale we take great pride in the food that we serve to our guests. We have brought together a truly remarkable kitchen team that work together to bring local, affordable and tantalizing dishes to the table every time.
Head Chef Benni Kelly
Benni began cooking at Coolum Beach Surf Club, a restaurant just north of Brisbane, Australia when he was 14. Inspired by his childhood job he enrolled in the culinary program at the Cooloo Institute of TAFE in Queensland, Australia. By the time Benni was only 22 he had graduated and was ready for a new adventure so he packed up and moved to New Zealand. Experimenting with the traditional local ingredients and seasonal variations that is New Zealand cuisine, Benni learned how to really cook. Still young and adventurous, Benni moved on from New Zealand and cooked his way around South East Asia where he learned how to incorporate even more authentic flavours into his food. Then after a short layover in his home country of Australia, he relocated to Canada. Unsure of where he wanted to settle, he tried a few outer laying areas of Pender Island, Tofino and the Comox Valley before he settled in the Cowichan Valley. Shortly after arriving he met his sweetheart Raeleen and is now proud to call the area home. His cooking philosophy revolves around keeping it simple: using local ingredients and letting the natural ingredients come out. With a passion for the outdoors, he is thrilled to have the opportunity to work in the new orchard kitchen so look for him this summer on the back deck. He will be the guy singing and dancing by the BBQ.
Consulting Chef Kaitlyn Bogas
Kaitlyn began her cooking career in Vancouver, in 1975. She worked at a number of restaurants while attending high school, and upon graduation, was the chef of the 175 seat “Owl and the Engineer” restaurant, in Surrey BC. She moved to the Okanagan Valley in 1981, and in 1982, at the age of 23, opened her first restaurant, “Cafe Europa”, in Vernon BC.
Kaitlyn moved back to Vancouver in late 1986, and worked briefly at “Joe Fortes” in downtown Vancouver. She then met Vancouver restaurant legend, Umberto Menghi, and took the head Chef position at “Umberto’s Fish House”, on Hornby street.
By 1991, she was again ready to open her own restaurant, “Saltimbocca” near Kit’s Beach. The restaurant opened to critical acclaim, and operated successfully until 1995, when it was sold to her then partner, Brian Jessel. In 1996, kaitlyn joined forces with Umberto Menghi as managing partner at “Mangiamo”, in Vancouver’s burgeoning Yaletown district. After selling to Umberto in 2000, she created “Coco Pazzo”, in Vancouver’s Kerrisdale neighbourhood. Kaitlyn has designed, and served as general contractor of each of her restaurants. Her last three establishments have featured contemporary, rustic, Italian cuisine.
Kaitlyn has four adult children, the youngest having just moved to the Island to study engineering at UVic. She lives very happily in Shawnigan lake, mountain biking up to 250 km per week, and enjoys river and lake fishing, and foraging in the woods. She vows never to leave Vancouver Island, especially if she wins a lottery.