It’s an all-too-familiar feeling: that stomach lurch as you confront the spread of mediocre food at a catered event. Meatballs on toothpicks and spinach dip in a bread bowl. Uninspired main courses of meat, chicken, or fish with the requisite sides of rice pilaf and steamed vegetables. And the eagerly anticipated dessert buffet laden with cheesecake lollipops, date squares, and black forest cake. Thankfully, such pedestrian choices are no longer de rigeur when planning an event. Whether an intimate backyard afternoon with friends or a lavish formal soirée, both Kale & Nori Culinary Arts and Butter on the Endive take pride in customizing unique events for their guests.
Founded in 2011, Kale & Nori Culinary Arts is the dynamic collaboration of chef Jonathan Chovancek and mixologist/sommelier Lauren Mote. They’ve parlayed their combined experience in restaurant fine dining, high-end global catering and international award–winning bartending into a bustling events production company. Kale & Nori’s event roster ranges from hands-on cooking and cocktail classes to multi-dimensional extravaganzas like the Bitter Bash closing party for Vancouver’s 2012 Tales of the Cocktail on Tour festival. “But whether it’s 12 or 1,200 people, whether wine, spirits, beer, coffee, or cocktails are the focus, we craft harmonious synergies of food and beverages,” says Chovancek.
Kale & Nori’s cuisine encompasses ethically sourced fish and animal proteins, but the emphasis rests squarely on vegetables and seasonal wild and foraged foods. For Chovancek, vegan, vegetarian, and diet-restricted dishes are a pleasure rather than a chore. “If you take away salt or fat or one element of a food group, there’s still so much you can do with foods and flavours. It unleashes my creativity and I think that ends up really resonating with our clients.” Mote’s cocktail creations seamlessly enhance the taste experience, incorporating elements of seasonality through preservation tinctures and syrups or dried elements that can be used year-round. “It’s our job as professionals and craftsmen to use our techniques and experience to make flavours speak their truth,” Chovancek says.
As the creative and culinary duo behind Butter on the Endive, Naomi Horii and chef Owen Lightly endeavour to create memorable moments by blending a unique sense of place with seasonally inspired ingredient-focused food. They jumpstarted their catering adventures in 2010 with a series of magical summer evening meals at the Squamish Valley’s Sunwolf Lodge. Lightly and Horii served their Sunwolf Suppers al fresco on the banks of the Cheakamus River—candlelit tables set beneath the spreading branches of a majestic walnut tree. Grounded in classical technique, Lightly’s menus celebrated the bounty of the Sea-to-Sky corridor with touches of Italian inspiration.
The Sunwolf Suppers helped establish the framework for Butter On The Endive’s philosophy. Channeling a background steeped in the arts, Horii captures singular opportunities “to sensually take in the unique qualities of the place in which a gathering happens.” She muses, “My approach to styling and planning takes the element of wonder as a starting point using aesthetics ranging from vintage to modern. The important thing is understanding the client and what will draw interest and curiosity.” Lightly is similarly inspired by a sense of playfulness and experimentation, a true love for food and the pure enjoyment of seeing it come into season.
“I consider myself an artist,” he reflects. “I need an element of magic, something that people can take away and think ‘ahhh’.” His flavours are characteristically clean, respecting the ingredient and allowing its inherent beauty to take centre stage. “I want our food to be straight-up delicious and register with our clients on a gut level. I want it to bring a smile to their face and leave them wanting more.” At the heart of it all, it’s simple goodness that lingers. And that’s what keeps guests coming back to the table.