First Look: Toque Catering

It might come as a surprise to even the most diehard Victorian gourmand that some of the finest and most respected chefs have found a home in catering. Victoria-born chef Nicholas Waters of nine-month-old Toque Catering is one such highly skilled chef finding bliss outside the restaurant scene. The personalized nature of working with clients, the creativity required to orchestrate a new menu, and the freedom to highlight extraordinary local ingredients are just some of the attractions that draw chefs to the catering business .


chefandchopstickseditat age 16, quickly transitioning  into a apprenticeship under the tutelage of Chef Christophe Letard at the Aerie Resort, then leading to stints with some properties in the Relais Châteaux chain­—the Wickaninnish Inn and Lumière. When Waters decided to quit restaurants, he found himself in a humble job at a resort on the Queen Charlottes where he gathered ingredients every day—and found himself awed at being five feet from a humpback whale gathering his bounty. Fresh crab and halibut would be honoured and meticulously prepared for 110 of the most fortunate camp staff in the world. When he returned to Victoria, Waters worked for Feys+Hobbs Catered Arts, where he intuited that catering would be at the forefront of his future endeavors. Waters launched Toque on July 1st, 2013, and the phone started ringing immediately. “I don’t want to grow too much,” says Waters. “It’s important to me that I offer all of the extra touches [the clients] expect from me.” Still, Waters welcomes every new client, success relying  on word of mouth and the recommendations of his long-established circle of friends and culinary peers.


 Toque donates one meal to someone in need for every catered plate ordered


Waters and his wife, Crystal, invite me to their Langford home for a taste of Toque, both the food and the artistry. Crystal juggles running Toque’s online presence and raising their one and a half year old son, Ferran (meaning ‘little baker’, he is named after Waters’ favourite Spanish chef, Ferran Adria). Toque uses sustainable serving vessels, which also double as works of art. This day, a polished and carved piece of driftwood will act as a throne for exquisitely prepared canapés composed primarily of Vancouver Island ingredients. Waters has arranged Albacore tuna chopsticks with pickled cucumber and sweet soy caviar alongside mini Dungeness crab cakes with smoked tomato fennel jam. Tiny galvanized mini pails contain prawns with nectarine lime coulis and a delicately garnished vegan Waldorf salad with pumpkin seed pesto is presented as a new creation for a client with a dairy allergy. Beautifully plated seared wild Coho salmon, asparagus risotto, and bacon jam jus is a teasing taste of spring. Known for his occasional nod to molecular gastronomy. Waters feels his trademark is his bacon jam, created during his tenure with Feys+Hobbs and incorporated into almost every menu.


Toque’s clients appreciate Waters’ thoughtful interpretation of their own visions with signature touches to offer an authentic collaboration between client and visionary. “I refuse to bargain hunt for food,” Waters states. He visited 27 farms in the West Saanich area to find the finest of the bunch for one single event last year, and ended up using 22 local farms for the menu.

Chef Waters  is as passionate about helping those in need as he is about his food. As the only caterer onboard Canada’s Mealshare program, Toque donates one meal to someone in need for every catered plate ordered, an exceptionally generous donation to local recipients, such as Victoria’s Our Place Society. The Waters gift for mentorship is evident by their work as foster parents, perhaps stemming from Waters’ own experience in his youth of being taken under the wing of noted chefs. Waters is also a steadfast supporter of and volunteer at Skookum Food and Coffee. Operating out of the West Shore Child, Youth, and Family Services Centre, the working café provides at-risk youth with opportunities to gain valuable life skills and feel part of a team with their preparation of food and serving the public.

Toque caters for groups—large andsmall, quirky and serious —and any inquiry will be met with an overarching  level of creativity and Chef Nicholas Waters’ trademark attention to both detail and ingredients.


Toque Catering

Victoria, British Columbia








Written By:

Gabrielle Pope is a freelance writer of plays, short/long fiction, young adult novels, creative non-fiction, and whimsical memoir. With an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC, a love of ice hockey, rescue animals, and fermentation, ...

Comments are closed.