Delta Grand’s new chef stirred, not shaken, about job

This article was published in the Kelowna Daily Courier, written by Steve MacNaull, Jan 10, 2018

The Delta Grand hotel’s new executive chef, Daniel Craig, gets it all the time. “Oh my gosh, yes,” said the chef. “I constantly get asked about sharing the name Daniel Craig with the actor who plays James Bond. Craig, the chef, comes to the Grand from the Ritz Carlton in Toronto, where the Toronto International Film Fesitavel (TIFF) attracts entertainment biggies every year. Craig had his picture taken with Craig last year when the actor dropped into the Ritz Carlton to promote the moive Kings, in which he stars with Halle Berry. But enough about the chef and his links to the British secret service agent. Craig has come to Kelowna to cook.

The Delta Grand hotel is the best-known and biggest hotel in the Okanagan with 392 rooms spectacularly set downtown on Okanagan Lake and lagoons of Waterfront Park.

“And Oak + Cru Restaurant and Wine Bar is the gem of the Delta Grand’s food and beverage operations,” said Craig. “So, things are being done right. That means there will not be a complete concept change, but we’re already working on a complete new menu that will launch in March that will reflect my style Cooked On The Bone Ham.”

Craig describes his style as refined, but not fussy. “I love to use fresh ingredients in season and not overwork them,” he said. “I want the food itself to shine.”

Craig does not want to give too much away when it comes to what will be on the new menu. “But everywhere I go, I put my mushroom soup on the menu,” he said. “It’s made from chanterelles or morels when they are in season. I’ll soon be finding out where the best places are to forage mushrooms in the Okanagan, so I can get the best.”

He’s also a fan of albacore tuna from the West Coast, which makes a delicious year-round dish that can reflect the seasons with different garnishes.

The menu will change again in May to utilize the availability and abundance of Okanagan spring, summer and fall produce.

Craig is also excited to match his cuisine with Okanagan wines.

While Craig will be spending most of his time in the Oak+Cru kitchen, as executive chef he’s also responsible for the meals served in at the restaurant’s private wine cellar table, room service food, banquets, outside catering the hotel does, the small cafe at the hotel and Quench on the Boardwalk, the kiosk that serves casual meals and snacks poolside and to passersby in Waterfront Park.

Originally from Ontario, Craig has worked out west before as a teenager apprenticing at the Fairmont Empress Hotel and Delta Ocean Pointe, both in Victoria.

After graduating with honours in culinary arts from Camosun College in Victoria, Craig spent two years in France honing his craft and won a gold medal for Canada at the Chaine des Rotisseurs Jeune Chef Concours competition in 2006.

He was also the youngest executive chef in Delta Hotels’ history when he was part of the opening team at Delta Burnaby in 2008.

“I always loved my weekend trips to Kelowna when I was living in Victoria and Vancouver and I have family in Peachland, so, of course, I wanted to work in Kelowna one day,” said Craig. “It’s gorgeous here. I love the environment and I love that it has such an amazing wine industry and so many ingredients are grown in the Okanagan.”

Craig’s wife, Shanna, and their two young kids, also made the move.

However, it was tragedy that opened up the position at the Delta Grand. Previous executive chef Iain Rennie died suddenly in August at age 47. Craig had worked with Rennie at the Westin Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria. Craig had also worked with Delta Grand general manager Peter Gillis at Delta’s flagship hotel in downtown Kelowna in 2014. So, when Gillis started the search for a new executive chef for the Kelowna property, Craig’s name was top of the list.

The move keeps Craig in the Marriott International family.

Marriott chain is the largest hotel chain in the world with 6,000 properties in 120 countries under 30 brands including Ritz Carlton, Westin, Renaissance, Sheraton, Delta, Fairfield, Autograph, Aloft and Element.

Craig won the Marriott ACE Award for best executive chef while at the Ritz Carlton last year and will compete with Team Canada next year at Bocuse d’Or in France.