In the middle of the pandemic summer, cooks were flying around the kitchen in Oak Bay’s Penny Farthing and Vis-à-vis.
Business was good, and it wasn’t lost on the staff of the two restaurants, who share a kitchen and are also home to Oak Bay Village’s new on-street patio seating.
“We’re very blessed, very lucky to have had the [level of] business this summer that we did,” said new chef Alain Léger.
Léger came on board in July. He’s made a few tweaks to create a passionate team in the kitchen and is excited to return to his roots. An Acadian from New Brunswick, he started his culinary career cooking French classical in Montreal.
“Chefs are always nostalgic and it’s been fun to return to French classical,” said Léger, who lived in Oak Bay for seven years.
His oldest daughter is an Oak Bay High grad.
On Dec. 10, he launched a new menu for both restaurants. Of course, it’s a tale of two kitchens in one.
“With the Penny Farthing, it’s a pub, and you have to be able to keep the menu consistent,” he said. “We’ve had a fish and chips special on Mondays going back a decade. For some people in Oak Bay that’s an institution. You can’t change that.”
There is a bigger change coming to Vis-à-vis.
“This menu is an evolution not a revolution. Expect the biggest change in the spring. Right now we are just building the frame. The plan is to have [daily, weekly] features. That’s the creative paint in the frame.”
It’s only a slice of what Léger the artist can do.
In the 1990s, he worked at Vancouver’s prominent Diva at the Met (in the Metropolitan Hotel). He arrived on the Island to help start up the kitchen at Brentwood Bay Resort. Léger was the head chef and general manager of Canoe Brewpub for 5.5 years.
The plan is to redo the menus for both restaurants in the spring and once the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, more of Léger’s true passion will emerge.
“I would love to run chef’s tables style of dining and theme nights,” Léger said. “I have a passion for the history of food. For the way food became important in each culture.”
Watch for a new breakfast menu and dessert menu coming next to the Penny and Vis-à-vis next.