Personal Gourmet Chef
by Jan Brubacher, Tofino
Mark Wrigley is well known in Tofino’s culinery circles – but
only a few may know that he got his start cooking at MacDonald’s.
He was 12, (lied about his age to get the job.) It was in Winnipeg.
He did other restaurant jobs working his way into 5-star, european
cuisine restaurants before entering a college program to become a commercial
chef. He did two and a half years and had a scholarship for another
nine months, when on a three month break from school, Mark came to
Tofino. He had planned to spend half of that time in Vancouver and
the other half in Tofino. Mark spent five days in Vancouver, came to
Tofino spent five minutes and – like so many before – fell
in love with the place and stayed. It was the end of March, lot’s
of rain and Mark had a job in construction doing grunt work, laying
drainage tiles slogging through mud.
He passed through this initiation and into the many kitchens Tofino
has to offer working two to three jobs and doing the restaurant shuffle:
the Sea Shanty, Tin Wis, the Alleyway Cafe, the Schooner, the Weigh
West, Costa Azul, and the Raincoast Cafe where he has more or less
landed–he is working there a few days a
week while getting his own business going.
Clayoquot Sound opens its arms to many, but not everyone stays. Mark
Wrigley has found his niche and for the people who live here and visit
here there is yet another way to experience fine dining. Clayoquot
Cuisine is born out of passion for food, love of the westcoast, and
desire to share these things with others. Mark Wrigley brings the dining
experience to you – no need to get in your
car or even leave your home.
The idea for this business started a few years ago, when Mark started
to have dinner parties where he would invite eight or so friends together
and would cook for them. This was not your average dinner party, this
was a culinary spectacle (delight!) in six courses. Mark liked that
interaction that came from being right there in an intimate setting
with the people who he is cooking for. His talent with food shared
in an immediate way with friends who appreciated his cooking and charisma.
These small dinner parties extended into cooking gourmet meals for
acquaintances and family of friends. It was from these experiences
that Mark started to think; “hey,
I could really make a living from this.”
The business has two sides: the multi-course meal for smaller groups,
and catering for larger numbers of people–meals or platters of appetizers and tasty
Regardless of the manner in which the food is served, the attention
to quality and to freshness is always there. Picking from seasonal
organic vegetables and a wealth of local foods available like shellfish
and other seafood; berries, and wild mushrooms – Mark offers up all kinds of ideas, but the choice
is yours, limited only by availability.
Clayoquot Cuisine provides dished and glasses “It is important to have
the look.” The right match for the dish being served, aesthetics is as
important as taste. The food is “complicated and delicate, full of fragrance,” sight,
smell, taste, texture–a sensual experience.
What is the style of food? His brother calls him a Jazz chef, “jamming
with the food” Mark mentions Westcoast fusion, a label that seems a little
worn. Perhaps a label is not necessary. Mark also talks about his travels, “all
the places... with all the flavours...” and how experience and other people’s
cooking have influenced and informed his own cooking style. “Nothing is
really your own – it’s all been done.” Taken from history,
the world at your fingertips, regional cooking, north, south, east and west.
He mixes up things that have done before and takes a completely different approach,
until the pieces of the puzzle come together in a totally new way. “Creating
something unique and different from what people might expect… pushing
flavours to the limit, but finding balance and smoothness.”
Food, food, food.
He talks food with precision and prowess. “It’s a science, like making
a potion... you have to find the right balance.”
He talks food like an sculptor. “I like to make it tricky, borderline balance… the
food strategically placed on the plate.”
And he is a magician, and food is his magic show.
Regardless of how primitive your kitchen is, he will, with the wave
of his wand, give you a gourmet dining experience. In your home, at
your floathouse, at a Hall, or at a ball. On the beach, or an Island,
on a boat, or on a float.
Mark Wrigley is someone who loves food and loves to cook, and wants
to bring it all to you. But would he climb Lone Cone or hike down to
Radar Beach to serve up an epicurean delight?
Cook over a fire, sure. Extreme cooking? Definitely. It is all possible.
Multitalented and creative, Jan Brubacher writes films, creates jewelry and costumes,
and convincingly plays the role of mother.
Tofino business profile of personal chef Mark Wrigley, written by Jan Brubacher for Tofino Time magazine.