Four Chefs: New Year’s Eve Cooking

When the chatter of New Year’s eve plans start to pipe up come mid-December, often champagne, company, and a plethora of parties come to mind. Or, if you’re anything like me, you are more along the lines of nervous, anxious, and thinking ‘what if I don’t pick the right plans, and this year ends as a bust’. Planning get togethers for monumental evenings like New Year’s eve can send the mini-Martha Stewarts running from the kitchen and into the nearest shops for pre-made party treats, to avoid a combustion of stress. While the most important thing for ringing in the new year is to be surrounded by loved ones and friends, the pressures of organization can turn sour what would otherwise be a sweet and delicious evening. Here to help take one thing off your mind, are four Victorian chefs ideas on what to prepare for that celebratory eve.


Garrett Schack: Executive Chef at Vista 18, Chateau Victoria

Hours: 6:30am – midnight, daily


For Schack the most important thing about New Year’s Eve is sharing it with friends and family, and celebrating the year gone by. Aligning with this idea, he suggests shareable plates around a large table to ensure a space for flowing conversation. Lemon goat cheese dip with crispy naan bread, complemented by spot prawn cocktails and artisan charcuteries. For those that will be bringing along  children, pigs in a blanket make for an easy, fun, and distracting treat, while the adults dip into the libations. Oysters are easy to come by and are good for a mouthful of fresh west coast flare. Having a buffet with homemade bruschetta, tomato basil, white bean and rosemary spread, and dungeness crab and avocado salsa are excellent ways of making sure your guests ring in the new year with full bellies, without spending too much time in the kitchen.


Ali Ryan: Head Chef at Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub

Hours: mon-fri 1130am – 1030pm; sat-sun 11:00am – 1030pm


While champagne is a common go to for all celebrations, Ryan suggests taking a different approach on the bubbly and instead replacing it with mead. Mead, an ancient drink made from honey, epitomizes the festive season with its history as a celebratory drink, full of spiced flavours. Mead can be incorporated into cooking, as well as used for drinking. Like Schack, fresh oysters are on the top of her list for sharing with guests. Ryan offers the idea of creating a mead mignonette, a condiment by definition  made with cracked pepper, and mixing finely diced shallots to drizzle on the hearty molluscs. In keeping with her new years eve ingredient, Ryan suggests reducing the mead to create a savoury sauce for duck breast. The sweetness cuts the rich duck meat, while contributing flavours of cloves, and cinnamon or blackcurrant, and gooseberry, depending on the type of mead used. Local root vegetables, like rutabaga, parsnips, and beets will be a welcomed side. To partake in Ryan’s suggestions, and have a celebration in the style of days gone by, Vancouver Island boasts a wonderful local meadery, Tugwell Creek.


Dan Bain: Restaurant Chef at LURE, Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa

mon-fri: Breakfast 6:30 am – 11:00 am; Lunch 11:30 am – 2:00 pm; Dinner 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

sat-sun: Brunch 11:30am – 2:00pm


Bain offers, for those adventuresome cooks, appetizers such as Ahi tuna tartar with a spice blend and homemade curry oil, or qualicum scallop ceviche with yuzu gel. Yuzu, an East Asian citrus fruit that punches a tart flavour, can be cooked with water and sugar and blended with agar to create a thick sweet and sour side complement. Root vegetables chips (fried or baked depending on how much you are prepared to sway from upcoming new year’s resolutions) can be a tasty and easy treat for you and your guests.  Sharing plates of confit chicken “lollypops” and mini bacon wrapped potato cakes with spice lacquered pork belly and black garlic kimchi, are perfect for round the table snacking. If you decide to have a sit down dinner with a seafood focus, Bain suggests incorporating champagne into caramelized cabbage with prosciutto wrapped sablefish and squid ink crumbs. For those meat-prone diners, a morel mushroom crusted lamb rack with cauliflower-stilton puree and confit potatoes with balsamic reduction, will herald friends and family to your New Year’s eve gathering.


Jena Stewart: Chef at Devour

mon-wed: 9:00am – 4:00pm

thurs-fri: 9:00am – 9:00pm


As a chef, long hours spent designing menus and executing visions leave little time for being on the receiving end of fabulously put together meals. For Stewart, her suggestions for New Year’s eve cooking reflect exactly what she would like to be eating while we say goodbye to one year, and hello to the next. An appetizer that Stewart suggests would be oysters rockefeller, a dish of baked oysters on the half shell with a butter sauce, herbs, breadcrumbs and often spinach, but with a slight twist. Using red swiss chard changes the flavour and gives a hint of a festive colour. For a main, smoked sablefish with a roast pork belly and butternut potato mash with roasted brussels sprouts. To finish off dinner before the clock strikes twelve, a spiced guinness stout cake with poached prunes and a dollop of heavy cream will leave friends and family thankful for the way they ended the year and meal.


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