Rick Reichelt calls it Okanagan casual with a Creole twist.
That is the flavour inspiration behind the menu at the new Bourbon Street Bar & Grille at Vernon’s Prestige Hotel.
“Our menu is a wide variety, but we have some Creole dishes – poor boy sandwiches, jambalaya, bouillabaisse,” said Reichelt, general manager at Bourbon Street since it opened in June.
“That touch of Creole cooking, it’s going over really well these first two months. We’re getting great feedback.”
Reichelt’s roots in the North Okanagan restaurant industry run deep. He first moved to the region in 1986 to operate Squires Four Pub. He then owned the Blue Heron Pub from 1999 to 2010.
When he was unable to renegotiate a lease for the Heron, he ran the Vernon Yacht Club until his friend and business colleague, Bert Duss, invited him back into the restaurant game.
Duss oversees the food and beverage service – including Aquatico Bay Bar & Grille and the Sandbar Pub – at the Prestige in Salmon Arm, and when the restaurant space at the Vernon hotel became available (Ora, the former restaurant, did not renew its lease), he turned to Reichelt.
“It all happened pretty quick. We had a meeting (with the hotel owners) in May and it was less than two months before we took over,” said Reichelt.
Ora renovated the restaurant space just four years ago, so aside from changing the lighting to brighten the interior, along with a few other cosmetic changes, Reichelt says it was a relatively seamless takeover.
However, running a hotel restaurant can be a double-edged sword, he said. On one hand, there are built-in customers onsite. On the other, there is a tendency for locals to associate a hotel as a place for out-of-towners.
“We want to build a local presence, not just depend on the hotel guests,” said Reichelt. “With hotel bars and restaurants, locals don’t think of them right away, so we’re working on that. The way you do that is by having a good menu and serving good food.”
A steady stream of Asian bus tours provides a good flow of trade during the tourist season, and Reichelt also caters to the Prestige’s conference and banqueting functions. Everything from coffee and muffins for a morning meeting, to a full-on wedding feast, the Bourbon St. staff and kitchen is the source of it all.
Using his restaurant connections, Reichelt has assembled a seasoned restaurant staff of 20, headed by chef Inna Turchin, who worked with him at the Blue Heron.
Turchin, a Lithuanian native who worked for several years in Europe, and then at a hotel in Israel before coming to Canada, has enjoyed crafting the Bourbon St. menu. She has fused some of her global culinary influences with the Creole theme to create an eclectic range of fare.
“People ask me what is my favourite, but since I created the menu and every dish is hand crafted, it’s hard to pick my very favourite,” smiled Turchin, who joined Bourbon St. after a year at Sparkling Hill Resort.
“My kitchen is really strong, my cooks are amazing and we have a really great time.”