Chapter 03 Out On Their Own Age 20–30

Art and Dan go out into the world, get a few breaks, and discover who they are...

Finding a Passion

After high school I didn’t really have a plan. I was doing big game guiding, fighting forest fires and got into too much partying for my own good.

One day I got a call from, Calvin White, my old basketball coach in Chetwynd. He invited me to come be a youth worker in an alternative school.

We did a lot of field trips, and delivered all kinds of programs. I felt a lot of responsibility being in charge of these kids and I knew I had to be a role model. I dressed nicer, was in better shape, and was doing interesting things.

When I think about it, what Calvin gave me was the confidence to think big.

He saw in me what I wasn’t able to see in myself.

At the same time, I had some very influential role models surrounding me, and they opened the world up to me in many ways. They got me reading all the right books.

This one
changed my

Finding a Passion

I’d been a poor student at Stowe so university wasn’t in the cards. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to start making a living.

My dad did too.

I went to work in Rick’s flagship restaurant in Padstowe. It’s an exquisite place that’s known as one of the best seafood restaurants in the world.

The truth is, when I started I really didn't know anything. I did know about fish, and at Rick Stein’s that was important, but really, I’d never seen half the ingredients in front of me.

This place taught me to cook. I was mentored by some incredible chefs and I soaked up every bit of their training. Within six months I was running hot starters and a variety of stations. After two and half years I could run a kitchen.

© David Griffin

© Scabetti

“The truth is, when I started I really didn't know anything.”

Honing my Craft

My new found confidence motivated me to continue my education, and so I enrolled at David Thompson University in Nelson, BC with a major in music.

It was a mistake.

I loved playing guitar and knew I wanted to be a musician, but when I got there I realized I was a bit out of my league. I didn’t even read music.

Outside of school I learned a lot. I’d jam with my classmates at house parties and got exposed to a lot of different types of music including world, progressive, and jazz.

Funny thing is that later on in life I developed a music career, and a lot of my well-trained classmates didn’t.

I always played music. It was like therapy, and, over the next few years, I wrote a lot of songs and played a lot of house parties.

But i also got busy with other things.

I met my first partner and we had two children together. I also followed a more conventional career path, working first in a friendship centre back in Victoria, then developing cross-cultural curriculum at Okanagan University College. I even did a Native communications program up in Edmonton and learned about TV, radio, journalism, writing and photography.

Honing my Craft

After Padstowe I spent the next ten years working at a variety of different restaurants, each time learning different aspects of the craft and the business.

First there was Trehellas House, in Cornwall where I learned to cook game.

Next there was the Poissonnerie de l'Avenue, in Chelsea, where I learned the art of classical French food.

And then there was the La Vinoteca in Ibiza, where I discovered the perfection of Mediterranean cuisine.

Then, one day, I got my big break.

At least I thought it was.

One of England’s most influential chefs, Mitch Tonks asked me to open a new location of his wildly popular restaurant, Fish Works.

In hindsight I was simply too young.

Here I was opening a huge restaurant with 86 seats. The pressure was intense. We opened and it was a huge success. I loved working for Mitch – his food and his ethics on seafood still influence me every day in the kitchen, but I was burnt out. I left exhausted and needing a break.