What is it that makes a fine dining experience truly fine? Most would agree that the factors which elevate ones experience to a fine one are spectacular food, beautiful presentation, exquisitely relaxing surroundings and courteous, attentive service. Erin Hotston and Francois Lessard have passionately combined these ingredients and cooked up the Alchemist Restaurant, a true fine dining establishment.
The atmosphere is a warm Tuscan style with fresco walls, illuminated by candlelight which is complemented by soothing Spanish guitar music. Guests arriving for a special occasion, a romantic evening or just a night out will, no doubt, have their expectations exceeded from the moment they enter the room.
Food is French, with a Mediterranean flair. Everything is made from scratch using French techniques and the freshest and highest quality ingredients available. The wine list features top quality BC wines, paired to dinner selections for clients’ convenience. The commitment to excellence assures patrons of the ultimate gastronomical experience.
Promoting local agriculture is also very important to Erin and Francois. Using as much local produce as possible they hope to promote local farmers and encourage diners to support those local producers by using their seasonal produce. The local produce is higher in nutrients, and generally less expensive than imported produce.
Alchemist Restaurant is a genuine labour of love for Francois and Erin, each of whom is a chef. The couple met about eight years ago while working at the Banff Springs Hotel and have been together ever since, spending much of their spare time visualizing their own gourmet restaurant and planning how they might make it happen. Erin is originally from Powell River, so locating here was a natural for her. Francois originates from Sherbrooke, Quebec and, as with many others who visit, fell in love with our pearl of a city. This all made the decision on where to locate an easy one.
So, their next step was to prepare a detailed Business Plan, which they did with the help of Community Futures – Powell River and the Self Employment Program. Then it was a month or so of coveralls, paintbrushes, hammers and the like as they renovated and decorated their premises on Marine Avenue. The result is quite stunning, from the dazzling sign hanging at the street, to the locally crafted and very unique bar.
Since opening the doors in July of this year, Alchemist quickly gained a reputation as the quality gourmet restaurant that it is. In only a few months Francois and Erin have become recognized as a very professional pair of chefs (they have a combined thirty years experience in the industry) who will stop at nothing to ensure their clients’ quality of food, drink and experience are second to none.
The name “Alchemist”, and the tag line “A journey Home” have very special meanings to this talented and motivated couple. As I would not want to leave
an erroneous impression, it is probably best that they explain those meanings themselves. The restaurant is located at 4680 Marine Avenue.
Lund Boardwalk & Waterwheel Restoration Project
The spring and summer of 2005 saw the restoration of Lund’s historic boardwalk and waterwheel. The total cost of the project was $35,500, funding of $25,000 was contributed from Community Futures.
The remaining funds for the project came from the business community of Lund and the sale of engraved boardwalk planks, which was so popular that the planks quickly sold out. The boardwalk is now safe and creates an interesting stroll on the waterfront.
Tourists and community citizens now gather on the boardwalk at sunset to watch the busy harbour activity.
The waterwheel and mechanisms were rebuilt and reinstalled. The waterwheel once again turns and is an irresistible attraction on the waterfront providing a noncommercial point of interest for tourists.
The wheel house was converted into a staffed visitor booth which created a central place to dispense information about Lund’s attractions and services. By proximity, the visitor’s booth complimented the two new kiosk-style businesses that set up shop on the waterfront in Lund this year. By making visitors aware of other, less visible, services in Lund, many businesses were busier this year.
Eight years ago a dilapidated old hotel was transformed into an historical community treasure through the partnership and efforts of the Sliammon First Nation and local businessman Dave Formosa. Though the project may have been considered a risky one by some, it has been very successful, and all parties involved are looking toward continued success and expansion in the years to come.
The Sliammon Development Corporation (SDC), through which Sliammon First Nation is the majority owner of the Lund Hotel.
Saw in Lund the chance to get the nation on the road to economic opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industry. The place was chosen for a reason.
“The Lund Hotel has a lot of cultural and traditional significance to Sliammon. It is a village site identified in our traditional territory.”
In the beginning Sliammon Development Corporation tried several times to get Dave Formosa involved.
“At first the project didn’t interest me,” Dave says. “I thought there was too much risk… It was [the SDC’s] foresight that made it happen. Despite my hesitation, they went ahead anyway.”
Because Dave is a director at the SDC, he was given a portfolio of the hotel.
“I was out there, going through the building, and the sun came up on the hills, and it was shining on the ocean. The hotel was crying out to me, ‘fix me,’ and that’s when I decided to do it.”
Dave agreed to become an equity operating partner, and from there the hard work began.
“We did the re-construction, the re-engineering, and the renovating with a three-quarter Sliammon crew,” he says. “Steve Tipton took on the construction with consulting and aid from Agius Construction. We had consulting and cabinet making from Rick Hopper, and all together we came up with the design and the look that we wanted.”
Community Futures (through the Community Economic Adjustment Initiative) assisted SDC with a loan to help get the business started. The first major success they have realized, Dave says, is that eight years into the project, the Lund Hotel is still operating, and it is gaining steam.
The Lund Hotel employs about 30 people year-round, and 75 in the peak season.
Cooperation is central to the success of the Lund Hotel.
“We enjoy a good partnership with Sliammon,” Dave says, “and we’re respectful of each other’s roles.”
The future holds great promise for the Lund Hotel and its partners. They continue to increase the number of rooms available, including oceanfront boutique rooms and has expanded to include Desolation Sound Tours, a 58-foot passenger boat that accommodates 50 people.