Credit: Kari Medig
The executive chef at Velvet in Rossland’s Josie hotel, stops pucks to unwind after work
Two days before unveiling the brand-new Velvet Restaurant and Lounge, in Rossland’s Josie hotel, executive chef Marc André Choquette seems pretty relaxed. Mind you, it’s not his first launch. Choquette was involved in opening Cactus Club Cafe’s King Taps in Toronto, plus two Vancouver eateries: the Homer Street St. Café and Bar, and the Loden Hotel’s Voya, which he relaunched as Tableau Bar Bistro. Also in Vancouver, he reopened the now-closed Lumiére—twice.
It’s rewarding, Choquette says, to see the process through from the ground up, build a new standard of operation, create menus and hire a team. He forges new friendships and forms new work relationships, “so it’s a labour of love.” The downside to the latest venture is less time at the rink. Three or four times a week, from September to March, Choquette plays hockey with the Rossland Lonestars in a men’s league. He’ll have to cut back a bit until the restaurant is running smoothly, when he can knock off work in the evening and hit the ice to unwind.
“I can burn some extra energy that I have left and just enjoy playing hockey with my teammates and have a few beers after that,” he says. “I don’t have to think about work or anything like that. It’s just a good hour and a half of fun times.”
Choquette, who likes being part of any team, especially enjoys hockey because it’s fast and physical. He plays goaltender, a position he loves for the skill set it requires and because it’s the backbone of the team: “[I] try to stop the pucks and keep our team in the game,” he explains of his work between the pipes.
Choquette took up the sport in his late teens in his hometown of Laval, Quebec, but didn’t really get into it until moving to B.C. in 1998. After studying classical French cuisine for three years at Montreal's l'Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, followed by an apprenticeship in Montreal and three months at a restaurant in France, he headed to Vancouver, where he landed a job as chef de partie at Lumiére. Apart from a couple of years in Australia to broaden his culinary experience and a stint at Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island, he was based in Vancouver until 18 months ago.
In late 2017, Choquette and his girlfriend, Chelsie Osmond, moved to Rossland, which immediately felt like home. The former mining town, population around 3,500, in the Monashee Mountains of the West Kootenays, has reinvented itself as a tourism and recreation destination—for hiking, biking and especially skiing. Despite plentiful snow, Rossland has a moderate climate with mild winters and comfortable summers. “It’s very lovely,” Choquette says. “It’s awesome—a small community with lots of outdoor activity.” Besides playing hockey, he snowboards in the winter, and in the warmer months participates in a slo-pitch men’s league. At home, he brews his own beer.
The couple’s Bernese mountain dog, Russell, adopted as a puppy in Vancouver, also approves of the move—he can be off-leash, play on the mountain and romp in the snow. “There’s so many dogs here, so it’s fantastic,” Choquette notes. He expects to stay in Rossland for a while. “[I’m] very well established here now,” he says. “I had a chance to purchase a home, and I totally feel part of the community, so I’ll enjoy this new adventure for a little bit.”
The Josie hotel, located at the base of Rossland’s Red Mountain Resort, and its full-service Velvet Restaurant and Lounge opened November 28. Executive chef Marc André Choquette has designed a menu based on seasonal, sustainable, regional fare. Owned by Noble House Hotels & Resorts, the Josie is the first ski-in, ski-out boutique hotel built in North America in more than 10 years and the Seattle-based company’s first Canadian property. Like Noble House’s 17 U.S. hotels and resorts, the Josie reflects local culture. Both it and the Velvet take their names from former mines in the area.