On a crisp winter morning, we met up with the two Chefs of Restaurant 62, Jeff Massey and Matthew Nichols. Gathering at Local Harvest in Chilliwack, they noted it as one of their favourite local spots to source ingredients.
While waiting for their produce order to be filled, the two chef partners explored the farm fields and greenhouses. They compared views on the seasonal vegetables growing and often stopped to admire the crops around them. Then, after a final look at the Local Harvest Market, they loaded up their truck and travelled back to Restaurant 62, where we had the opportunity to capture them in action.
TFV: Tell us a bit about each of your roles at R62? Matthew Nichols is the Chef. His role is basically the backbone of the restaurant. All things food and culinary come from him. From creating the menu and new dishes, to finding and incorporating new or changing products to training kitchen team members to cooking and plating dishes. Definitely the hot seat.
Jeff Massey’s role is a little more rounded. Jeff generally supports all of the front of house staff ensuring a smooth service, making and pouring beverages, communications, working on the wine list and inventories and also catering. Jeff is usually the chef on site for most of Restaurant 62 catered events.
TFV: What makes your restaurant unique? JM: I think the one thing that makes Restaurant 62 unique is the fact that we truly are locally sourced, seasonally influenced fine dining. Our menu changes regularly as the seasons change and product availability comes and goes. With over two-dozen farms and producers providing us everything from right here in the Fraser Valley. MN: What makes our restaurant unique is our usage of local ingredients, but more importantly it’s our staff. Many our them have been with us for 3+ years. We have been very fortunate to have have knowledgeable and passionate individuals who understand the importance of buying and severing local ingredients.
TFV: What is your hope for people after they’ve experienced your restaurant? JM: I always hope that when people leave Restaurant 62 that they feel well taken care of. That they feel completely satisfied with their dinner and time spent here in our dining room. Even a little impressed by the style of food and presentation that we create here daily. I always hope that when a guest leaves, we have won their confidence with our food and service. So, then they’re already thinking of a return visit and they are excited to try something that they might not generally order in a restaurant. It’s because they’ve been so impressed, they are willing to take a bit of a chance next time. MN: First, I hope they enjoyed their dining experience at Restaurant 62, from the moment they are greeted at the door to their last bite of dessert. Second, is that people walk away with a better understanding of what is available to them in the Fraser Valley. Such as farmers like Local Harvest, Abundant Acres, Maple Hill Farms, Fraser Valley Specialty Poultry, Mt. Lehman Cheese, The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Your Wildest Foods, Kents Chicken Coop, Berezan Shrimp Company, Treasure Gardens, True Grit Farms to name a few.
TFV: Is there any meaning behind the number 62? JM: When the restaurant opened in 2004, the original team wanted to keep they’re identity a little less defined. They wanted to have a restaurant that wasn’t hemmed in to any particular genre or style of food preparation. They envisioned a Yaletown style eatery that focused on good food and good service. It also didn’t hurt that original floor plans allowed for 62 seats.
TFV: Tell us a little bit about your lives outside of R62. JM: A real family man, I love to spend time with my wife Darcie and four kids. When at home, I always cook and always have the kids help me. We have a nice Sunday Dinner with family every week. Other things I like to spend time at are hunting, golf and playing hockey. MN: What life? Joking. The restaurant can demand some long hours, so I try to spend as much time as I can with my wife Jenna, our dog, Winnie and family. Other than that, trying new restaurants with friends, fishing and golfing.
TFV: What’s your favourite dish on the menu? JM: Well, right now, my favourite dish on the menu is probably the roasted fresh Ling Cod filet. Served with slow cooked white beans and chorizo sausage. Perfect. MN: My favourite dish is the Yarrow Meadows Duck Breast, fig mole, sweet potato, tomatillo. There is nothing like the slow seared duck skin, on a medium rare duck breast. The Figs in the the mole are from Local Harvest in Chilliwack, tomatillos we preserved for the dish are from Treasure gardens in mission and Local Harvest as well.
TFV: What’s your favourite or must-have ingredient to cook with? JM: Hmmmm. That is a pretty tough one… I guess I would have to say salt… A great sea salt like Vancouver Island Salt Co’s True North Flake is definitely a must have. Other than that…. fennel. I love fresh fennel. MN: My favourite ingredient is cauliflower actually, you think it would be duck fat or butter….. I do love those too, but there is not much I like more than cauliflower with a bit of salt and olive oil, roasted golden brown. It can usually be found on our menu somewhere year round. When it’s in season we get white, purple, green and orange cauliflower from Local Harvest, then pickling a good amount to preserve for the off seasons.
Dining In or Eating Out? Dining in. Always. Whenever we travel, I prefer to find local ingredients and work with my own hands to make a nice dinner. I love just laying a meal all on one large platter or board and slowly enjoying it with a bottle of wine.
Dinner or Breakfast? Dinner. I always prefer a nice slow dinner with lots of family. Always lots of fresh vegetables….and three different meats to choose from. Seems a little much… but I really do enjoy small amounts of many different things….so do my kids.
Steak or Chicken? Pork. Or lamb. I just prefer the richness of these two meats over steak or chicken. Unless….maybe…. are we talking about slow roasted whole chicken stuffed with fresh rosemary, butter, lemon and garlic under the skin…basted regularly over a couple of hours in the oven until deep golden brown, on top of parsnips and carrots and onions roasting in the juices…then maybe chicken….or duck. Scallops?
Wine or Beer? Both, but not in that order. I do love a nice cold beer. But later at night, sitting on the front steps of my house after a long day…. a glass of wine is pretty much guaranteed.
Sweet or Salty? Tough. Real tough. Anyone who knows me knows I generally have a chocolate bar a day…. so sweet. But also, they’ll know that I love a salty savoury snack too. Like pork belly. Anytime is a good time for pork belly. End of story.
Dining In or Eating Out? Dining in, as much as I cook at the restaurant, I still love to cook at home.
Steak or Chicken? Steak. salt, pepper. a grill, ribeye and some red wine, good company…… not much beats that.
Dinner or Breakfast? Dinner, I like thinking about or prepping what we are going to have. I’ve never been much of a breakfast person.
Wine or Beer? They both have their places, after a busy service it’s usually a beer. After a busy week, it will be wine
Sweet or Salty? Salty, I will take a salty, savoury dish any day over dessert.
TFV: How do you like to get involved within the community? JM: I like to work with projects that help move the food community forward. We support the Abbotsford Food Bank annually. We cook lunch for 400 volunteers who clean up the Fraser River Banks near Chilliwack before the freshet. We are a part of the Valley Farm and Food Collective bringing more fresh local food to people in the Fraser Valley.
TFV: Are there any businesses in the Fraser Valley that inspire you? And why? JM: One business that really does inspire me is the Local Harvest Farm. Dan and Helen Oostenbrink and their family really grow some amazing produce. But, to really appreciate this… go to the farm. Walk around the property. It is an open farm where you can walk through the fields and see your produce literally grow right before your eyes. When you look a little closer, you can see that the entire farm is planted, harvested and maintained by hand. By hand. 30 acres of seasonal products grown with so many other varied products all planted for a specific reason to avoid the use of any chemicals or sprays all organically grown. Amazing. MN: Again, Local Harvest in Chilliwack. Dan and his family spend so much time and effort to produce an amazing and flavourful product. Seeing and walking the farm with Dan, you see the passion and hard work that goes into every carrot, beet, tomato, celeriac…etc they produce. Treating their vegetables with the utmost respect from the minute we pick it up from the farm to the moment it is placed on the plate is a privilege. They make our job easy.
TFV: If you were a destination, where would you be? JM: I would be a small log cabin somewhere near a lake. In the late fall. Leaves turning colour. Wood fire burning. Bright sunny days, quiet cold nights. MN: If I were a destination I would be Portland, Oregon, I love the food there and the whole atmosphere and weirdness of the city. The restaurants aren’t afraid to be different, and try new and interesting flavour combinations.
Locally sourced ingredients, a wine selection that cannot be beat and an exceptional team dedicated to making your visit memorable. Fine dining at Restaurant 62 is an experience your tastebuds will never forget.