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Back to Basics at RedCan Gourmet, Tofino, British Columbia

Picture of Pizza

Sometimes you just need to get back to the basics – honest food, local ingredients, and a community of good friends. One of the restaurants we visited on Vancouver Island that illustrates this was RedCan Gourmet, a small eatery housed in a no-nonsense industrial building just outside the tiny town of Tofino on Vancouver Island. It’s here that Chef Tim May, a culinary veteran who spent 30 years honing his cooking skills at places like Pan Pacific Hotel in Whistler and upscale Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, strips cooking down to its delicious essentials.

In this tiny, no-frills space, Tim and his young wife, Sarah, churn out artisan pizzas made with the best Italian flour, milled Roma tomatoes, and the freshest local ingredients like chanterelles from nearby forests. He also makes gourmet sandwiches and dishes like handmade lasagna. And savvy, in-the-know locals line up.

But it wasn’t until the lights went out and the kitchen was plunged into darkness that we really learned what RedCan  Gourmet is all about. As Tim, Sarah, and his assistant chefs toiled in the dimness, unwilling to close the place despite the power failure, his gaggle of hungry customers swung into action. Without being asked, several of them hustled up flashlights. One man went to a nearby store and bought a battery-operated light. Others carefully lit candles to chase away the gloom. All the while, Chef Tim and his staff stayed the course, spinning pizzas, ladling out hot food, bantering with those who waited, and feeding more than just customers’ stomachs, but also tending to this tight-knit community’s soul.

fresh local chanterelle mushrooms Red Can's signature soft, chewy crust with crispy edges

 

Pizza Crust Dough

 

Dough Tossed in the air

Each RedCan Gourmet pie goes airborne before being fit into pans for the oven.

 

Chef prepping pizza crust

After prodding and spinning, the dough is prepped for the pan.

 

Chef Steve Stretches and Forms Dough in Pizza pan

Chef Steve stretches and forms the dough into pans before loading it with toppings.

 

Chef Making Pizza

With a power outage throughout town, my flash illuminates the fast-paced effort to fill orders that continued to pour into RedCan Gourmet.

 

Pizza Toppings

Fresh produce and locally-sourced toppings are piled high on custom-made pies.

 

Candle

A power outage that took out the electricity on the entire peninsula meant orders had to be filled by candlelight. Local customers stepped up to provide flashlights, lanterns, and candles like this one.

 

Hot pizzas

Fresh crafted pies are slipped into the oven as bubbling pizzas ready for customers are pulled out.

Hot Pizza out of oven

Hot, steaming pizza covered in a special gooey blend of cheeses is ready to cut and serve.

Chef Cutting Pizza

This is the final stop for a pizza made with the freshest ingredients like chanterelles from nearby forests. Chef Tim May’s commitment to creating  fresh, affordable food easily translates into his artisan pizzas.

 

 RedCan Gourmet chef/owner Tim May

Despite the lights being out, customers lining up, and the phone ringing off the hook with to-go orders, RedCan Gourmet chef/owner Tim May takes time to share a story with a waiting customer. During the blackout, RedCan Gourmet was one of the few restaurants open for business.

Outside of RedCan Gourmet

Don’t be fooled by the facade; while RedCan Gourmet is housed in an industrial park just outside of Tofino, Tim May’s back-to–basics cooking approach and  fresh, local ingredients wows locals and tourists alike.

 

Slice of RedCan Gourmet Pizza

After thanking Tim and pastry chef Steve for allowing me to witness gourmet pizza making and community building at its finest, I dig into my pie. It’s a mouthwatering blend sweet roasted garlic, hand ground tomatoes, and a special blend of feta and other cheese. Simply delicious.

redcangourmet.com

 

by Anne Weaver, RFT Editor

Posted 12/31/11

 



Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at realfoodtraveler.com.