This is the 3rd episode of this ongoing series of introductions to the faces and personalities of restaurants and other businesses on the Sunshine Coast feeding you and quenching your thirst.
Chasters Restaurant in Bonniebrook Lodge holds claim to being Gibsons’ iconic fine dining restaurant. The lodge, built in the early 1900’s and can also take credit for being the longest serving accommodation provider on the Sunshine Coast with the restaurant taking it’s name from the family that built the lodge and owned the land surrounding it.
Eddie Malcolmson, the modest chef behind all the dishes served, has been at the heart of the kitchen for many years.
How in the world did a chef from Dublin wind up cooking on the Sunshine Coast???
The simple answer is “Love” brought me here! My wife who I met at Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare in the West of Ireland was born and raised in Gibsons. She was travelling in Ireland and our paths crossed. She couldn’t believe I had watched Beachcombers, I couldn’t believe it was a real place and she lived there. When she came back home to visit her family, I followed and my second love affair with Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast began. We spent 10 years in Ireland working together in various places, opened a restaurant, had our 2 girls who were born in Kerry. In 2009 we decided we should put the paperwork together so that we could consider moving to Canada. I could not believe my luck when only days after I had received approval for my permanent resident status in Canada, my wife’s good family friend who had been working on the interior designer at the recently sold Bonniebrook Lodge called us to say the new owners were looking for a chef. Mark and Lina hired me on Julie’s recommendation. A month later we moved to Canada. Lucky for all of us it seems to have worked out, as I am still here 11 years later!
The food you cook at Chasters is essentially French in style. Was that always the direction you wanted to go?
Being the youngest of 11 children it was far from French cuisine at my house. I lived on beef stew, curry cake as we called them, like pakoras with ground beef and potato and the grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Talk about a shock! I remember the first time a chef made me taste rare beef I thought I was a goner and would surely die. Well-done was the standard at my house. I knew nothing about French cuisine or real cooking for that matter. But when I started my career in the late 80’s in Dublin, almost every decent restaurant cooked classic French cuisine and culinary school was all based on French cuisine and was the benchmark for any young chef trying to get an apprenticeship. I knew it was considered to be the way to go and the time, I didn’t know much but I knew I wanted to learn the best techniques recognized all over Europe. The French style may have been updated over the years but I am still using what I learned 30 years ago at Chasters today to cook the most popular dishes on the menu. I always seemed to find myself working in restaurants that tended to concentrate on making quite simple food to a high standard. Food trends come and go but simple, tasty, well prepared food never goes out of style, I still enjoy a good beef stew just call it beef bourguignon now.
How have you noticed the tastes of your guests change much since you started?
Surprisingly enough I haven’t seen too many changes in tastes in my time at Chasters. Guests still seem to order the old reliables without fail, rack of lamb, duck and seafood have always been popular. If any change has been noticed it may be a shift towards healthier options but it seems most people consider dining at Chasters as a special treat and just go for it, and eat whatever they fancy regardless of cream and butter content, lucky for me.
The menu is yours but would you say there’s one area of cooking where you’re particularly strong? Meat/ Soups & Sauces/ Desserts?
I have always loved desserts, making and eating them! It’s precise and takes patience. It’s also how I became interested in cooking. I used to love spending time in the kitchen and helping my Mom bake, the smell of lemon zest transports me back to making the Christmas puddings and getting to mix the batter. I did study pastry arts after I finished my regular apprenticeships but I have never actually worked as only a pastry chef. However, if I listen to what other people, employers, friends and family say, it seems sauces may be one of my strong points in the kitchen. A good sauce really makes a dish and can really take it to another level.
I’ve known other chefs in the past working in fine dining restaurants that just wanted burgers or wings or other simple fare once their shift finished. The food they cooked professionally became less appealing for them personally. Do you find this for yourself?
Honestly, no. Things are a little different now when it comes to food at home. With four busy kids, quick and easy what usually works but we always try to make our food rather than have ready packaged food or takeout. I have become quite the pizza and pasta maker in the last few years. But even in the past (before kids) I loved to either cook for myself or indulge by dining out at a fancy restaurant. It was normal to spend our days off dining at Michelin starred restaurants or travelling around Ireland in search of a great meal. It was all for research of course!
Is there something you wish you could try out at Chasters but fear wouldn’t fly?
Over the years I have tried lots of stuff that didn’t fly here but were very popular in Ireland. Irish people love game, so it was very normal to serve rabbit, venison, pheasant and quail on a menu there. I have tried them all at Chasters over the years to no success. I’ll admit it used to frustrate me but give the people what they want has become my new motto. After 11 years I think I see a pattern…
Any particular challenges to your job that seem unique to the Sunshine Coast?
Hmm… probably finding staff with experience and a solid restaurant background that don’t mind working evenings and weekends. It might not just be a coast thing but cooking is not really the profession here as it is in Europe. The hospitality and service industry is a way of life in Europe. There is a lot of pride in being well trained and working in well recognized establishments. Even the most qualified chefs are often willing to take lower positions if it means they will get an opportunity to learn, which I have done myself a few times in my career. That said I have had some great staff in the kitchen over the years . Luckily I really only need one other person in the kitchen, I can’t imagine the difficulties of finding a staff of 3 or 4 to consistently man the kitchen.
You don’t have to name names (though you could) but what’s been the worst restaurant job you’ve held and why?
I have to admit I have always liked my job and making good food. I’ve definitely seen it all… tempers, pots and pans thrown around the kitchen, hands getting stuck in machines, owners who have made their chefs cry… I have definitely worked for some difficult bosses in the past who have made it challenging to enjoy my work, but I think the only time I really hated my job was when I worked in a famous 5 star hotel in Dublin. It was a union job – which was unheard of in a hotel at the time. I think the place was just too big for me, the food had no finesse and clocking in and out was not my style. I think working there made me realize that I definitely preferred working in smaller restaurants where you can have a connection with your customers. There is a sense of pride that develops in a small restaurant that you just don’t get working in a big hotel when you are 1 of 100 chefs who work there.
Who does the cooking at home? Are you teaching your kids to cook?
I cook when I am home and my wife cooks when I’m at work. I make a lot more washing up than she does so I seem to get the kitchen all to myself when I’m home somehow. My two older girls are always on the run but we enjoy doing some cooking projects together when we get the chance. But my twin boys love to cook, as long as it is sweet stuff! It’s just like how I got into cooking, helping my mom make basic cakes and cookies. This probably explains my love of all things chocolate, just like them. They love helping with family breakfast on Sunday mornings and can mix up some excellent waffles or banana pancakes. They may not become chefs but boys who can cook are always popular later in life and I know they will have fond memories of our time in the kitchen together.
1532 Ocean Beach Esplanade
Gibsons, BC V0N 1V5
Toll Free: 1-877-290-9916
- Chasters Standard Hours of Operation: Fall / Winter / Spring: Thu – Sun 5:30pm to 8:30pm / Summer ( June 17 – October 11 ) : Wed – Sun 5:30pm to 9:00pm JANUARY: CLOSED