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.
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.
Kim and Ian Blom
Kim and Ian met at Vancouver Island University while completing their Bachelors of Culinary Arts. Kim is originally from Nova Scotia and first discovered her love for cooking in 2004 when she took cooking classes while living in Taiwan. Three years later she left Taiwan and moved to Victoria where she worked at the Fernwood Inn before moving to Nanaimo and starting school. Her apprenticeship took her to Victoria, Calgary and home to Nova Scotia. She received her Red Seal certification in Victoria from Paprika Bistro and finished her apprenticeship at Stage Wine Bar. After graduating, she continued at Stage Wine Bar and worked as a pastry chef at the Black Hat before coming to Merridale. Ian was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley and started his restaurant career as a dishwasher at Arbutus Ridge before going to culinary school in 2007. He completed his apprenticeship at Hasting House on Saltspring, River Cafe in Calgary and received his Red Seal Certification from Stage Winebar, where he worked as a sous chef after graduation. This past summer Ian and Kim married and moved to the Cowichan Valley together. Ian is excited to be back in his hometown where he can bring flavour naturally to his creations with the abundance of fresh produce available in the area.
To complement our bistro and make year round use of our Brick Oven, we have invited Alain Boisseau to join our Merridale team. Trained in France and Canada, Alain has an extensive background as both a baker and entrepreneur and is a perfect fit for Merridale. He has lived in the Cowichan Valley for many years now and was the founding owner and operator of Café des Artistes, a lively café and bakery. After Alain sold his café, he took a break from baking, but recently we convinced him to begin again.
Alain’s recipes have been passed down through a long line of his Cognac winemaker and baker ancestors. Here at Merridale, Alain carries on these family traditions, but he is also busy developing recipes using Merridale ingredients. He has created cider levain bread, a sourdough bread made from natural cider yeast and fed with Cyser which gives the sourdough a hint of sweetness. His bread and pastries (including his spectacular apple pies, brioches, pretzels and croissants) are available for purchase at the Cider House and are also available on the menu at our Bistro.