By James Rose

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Yan Thérien thought he was set. The year was 1996, and at the tender age of 19, already he’d landed a coveted culinary apprenticeship at Le Toque, one of Montreal’s top restaurants. At Le Toque, he was learning from one of Montreal’s top chefs. In short, Thérien was well on his way. But after coming down with an illness resulting from a workplace injury, a cut on his hand, his career trajectory took a sharp turn in an unwanted (at the time) direction.

Hometown: Montreal, QC
Age: 46
Occupation: Chef, business owner: Street Avenue Food, The Snack Bar
Columbia Valley arrival: 1997

“I couldn’t work for two weeks because of my injury,” Thérien said. To not be able to work for two weeks meant that his position needed to be filled by someone else. Yes, the restaurant world can be ruthless. Just like that, Thérien was out of a job. He was crushed.

“But then one day I got a call from a friend. He said he was doing a road trip across the country to Victoria, and would I like to come?” It was exactly what Yan needed. So, off they went in a supposedly indestructible Lada Niva – a legendary Russian made SUV. Brothers in arms, head west young man. “My English was so bad at the time,” he recalls, laughing, “that once, when we stopped for gas in Manitoba, a woman asked if I wanted my car filled up.” Yan’s reply? “Yes, sir.”

When they got to Canmore, their Russian tank broke down. Their trip, on hold. “So, we went and got jobs,” said Thérien. They decided to stay. “And I fell in love with a girl.” Another reason to stay. It was with that girlfriend (since broken up) that he first travelled to the Columbia Valley in 1997.

“It was such a relaxing day. Right away, I fell in love with this valley,” he said. “The lake, the beach, the warmer weather, the people, all of it.” Since that first Columbia Valley visit, Thérien has worked in Fernie kitchens (where he got his Red and Gold Seal), Canmore kitchens, Lake Louise kitchens, all kinds of kitchens. For a spell, he held the contract managing Panorama’s entire food and beverage operation while the resort was transitioning between ownership groups.

“I love Columbia Valley,” he said. “I can do all my favourite hobbies here.” These include skiing, hiking, fishing, and biking. When an opportunity presented itself to return to live and work in Invermere full-time, Thérien leapt at it.