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Nanaimo's Feastival celebrates Vancouver Island's culinary culture

NANAIMO - Feastival, an annual culinary festival, showcases Vancouver Island's culinary landscape.
Chef Karen Barnaby hosts a cooking demonstration during Feastival held Friday and Saturday (June 17-18) at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

Chef Karen Barnaby likes to add a twist to mainstream recipes.

She wants people to recognize the dish, but see it as a little different than regular fare.

“I try to play to the audience,” she said.

The flavours and quality of ingredients are important.

She likes to think outside of the box and at one point in her career she was inspired by teas, sent to her by the company Tealeaves, and used them to flavour a variety of dishes. The teas she chose were a collection of spices.

“The flavours were so intense and beautiful I had to use them,” she said.

In one instance, she covered goat’s cheese in cheesecloth, packed the tea around it and let it sit overnight. The flavours were absorbed into the cheese. On another, she used the tea to flavour a dessert.

The Vancouver-based chef is taking the stage during Feastival, the annual culinary festival highlighting Vancouver Island’s culinary culture, as a guest celebrity chef.

She’ll create the dish albacore tuna poke Korean style, using local albacore tuna.

“I try to use an ingredient that is in season or a concept that is in season,” said Barnaby.

She said more and more people are buying prepared food every year instead of cooking meals from scratch and events like Feastival introduce people to local producers and growers.

“It introduces people to a different way of using ingredients, common ingredients,” she said.

Barnaby said when she does cooking demonstrations she tries to do something different, but not too extreme as to deter everyday cooks.

Barnaby said she likes attending events like Feastival because she gets to see what other communities, chefs and local producers are doing.

“That always inspires me,” she said.

This year, organizers have added a new event to Feastival called Sips. Sips features tastings from craft breweries, Vancouver Island wineries and spirit producers. The evening also includes food trucks outside the conference centre. Attendees must be 19 years or older to attend the Sips event.

“It’s a growing industry, a reflection of people being observant of the local food movement in our community,” said Kim Smythe, chief executive officer of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce about craft brewing.

The event also features a home-brew competition. The winner will get the chance to create a special beer with one of the craft brewers sometime after Feastival.

Smythe said that beer will be unveiled at the business expo being held in October.

Feastival is Friday and Saturday (June 17-18) at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. Friday night is Sips at Feastival, from 6-9:30 p.m.

The trade show, workshops, cooking demonstrations and the seafood chowder cook-off, between title defender the Bold Knight and contender Sea Salt Food Company, is Saturday and runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Celebrity chefs will have cooking demonstrations Saturday. Barnaby takes the stage at noon, Nanaimo’s Daniel Caron and Tammy Deline from 2 Chefs Affair and the Modern Cafe do their demonstration at 10:30 a.m., Laura Gosnell is at 1:30 p.m. and Angelo Prosperi-Porta is at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for Sips at Feastival, which includes five tastings and admission, is $39. Additional tasting tickets are $5 each. Adult admission for Saturday is $10, a family pass for four is $20 and children under the age of 16 are free. Feastival workshop tickets are $5 each.

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For more information about Feastival please go to