Kitchen owners aim to bring urban hours and city vibe to Gabriola

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, August 30 2016

Gabriola’s newest restaurant, The Kitchen, is open until 11:30 p.m., three days a week for pizza, salad and dessert to go or to eat in. This is something Gabriolans haven’t seen for a long time, perhaps since pizza was offered from the trailer along North Road. 

Times are changing on Gabriola, and for years people have expressed their frustration about not being able to eat out, particularly in the winter, after eight o’clock at night. Living on this island has some drawbacks, but this is no longer one of them. 

“It’s the one thing no one’s doing. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday people can get pizza to go or to eat in until 11:30 p.m.,” says Aaron Pope co-owner of The Kitchen with Hazel Slack and Lindsay Stocking Godfrey. “We’re the only place on the island to offer that.”

The three owners had previously worked together at the Surf Restaurant since 2015 before deciding to open their own restaurant in the Village three months ago, in the space previously occupied by the Old Crow Cafe. Godfrey was then working as the general manager of the Surf and she had brought on Pope and Slack. They were living in Courtenay at the time and responded to an advertisement that Godfrey had placed.

“I thought a job on an island was a crazy idea,” says Pope. “We had a long chat and Lindsay said it would be like going on holidays.”

Godfrey came to Gabriola in 1985. She’s had a successful jewellery making business among many other things.

“At the outset, we were going to continue to run the Old Crow but in a short period of time we changed our minds. Everything happened so quickly,” says Godfrey, “with the first can of paint that Hazel picked out,” which was dill pickle and oriole, like the bird.

“I call it a down home bistro, and it has a cosmopolitan feel.” The current menu has Spanish influences says Pope, who has been working since he was 14 in more than 20 different kitchens. Pope, who is 41 years old now, makes all the menu decisions, while Slack does all the baking and desserts. Pope and Slack also share a three-year-old son, Henry.

“We offer a hipper, city vibe with something as simple as a record player.” Now they have a few hundred records to choose from that create a rich ambiance. People are even bringing records into the restaurant to add to the collection.

 The Kitchen opened with great help from friends volunteering their time, and all three owners are grateful for the help they received.

Monday through Wednesday the Kitchen is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and on Sunday brunch is offered from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“We’ve heard people say that it’s warm, welcoming and airy, with subtle calming colours.  It’s a casual atmosphere for everyone,” says Pope. Godfrey says the restaurant can be a great place for a date, a ball team or a family to meet and have a fun evening. It’s a place where the whole community can gather. 

Slack has worked in baking since 2008. “I’m doing desserts for the menu like key lime pie, chocolate torte and butter tarts.” All the owners are keen for islanders to take advantage of their hours and the creativity in the kitchen.

“It’s an opportunity to invent and fulfill dreams and to make changes. It’s very freeing,” says Godfrey. Her family was in the hotel business in Sewickley, Pennsylvania; her mother was a chef. “It’s in my blood to be in hospitality and the bug stayed.”

Some favourites on the menu are The Kitchen burger, Aztec chicken, steak, and Slack’s key lime pie. Pope grew up in Brantford, Ontario, and says he has photos of his parents in the kitchen and wants to get those up in the restaurant. 

Pope says that staffing has been a big challenge and Godfrey echoes his concerns and says that if there was more available housing people might come to the island for a job. It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by many of the island’s food establishments this summer, but the trio are grateful for the incredible staff they do have. 

They’re trying to be successful by making themselves different with a friendly move for Gabriolans who want the option to eat out between 9:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. and get great food in an urban atmosphere seven days a week.