Chef Ryan Bissell
This year, Outer Shores was fortunate to have Chef Ryan Bissell join the crew of Passing Cloud for several expeditions to Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Sea.
Chef Ryan is currently the corporate Executive Chef for Infinity Enterprises, which owns several restaurants around Vancouver and Whistler. He’s also co-chair of Vancouver’s delicious Spot Prawn Festival and is a board member of the Chef’s Table Society of BC.
What made you want to join the crew of Passing Cloud?
I’ve always liked the idea of a working holiday and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that. I was able to cook for some people while seeing a large portion of the BC coast on a cool schooner.
What’s the best part of being chef on Passing Cloud?
Where the galley sits! Usually on a boat, you’re down below deck, but on Passing Cloud you’re right up top and you get to see everything. Basically, you feel like you’re on whale-watching duty most of the time.
How did the coastal landscape inspire your cooking?
I had a standing challenge with the rest of the crew that I would cook whatever we were able to catch or forage. So, if we caught a lingcod, I would cook a lingcod. If we caught a rockfish, I would cook a rockfish. We managed to do that quite a bit.
Were you ever stumped?
No, but it was close. For instance, bull kelp doesn’t react well to a lot of cooking techniques. You need to get very specific.
Does coastal British Columbia have its own distinctive cuisine?
Depending on the ingredients, I’d say it does. There’s not a specific style because it’s really a cool mish-mash of different cultures. But the ingredients are certainly stand-alone, with spot prawns and Dungeness crab and wild salmon.
What’s most underrated about BC’s coastal cuisine?
I’d say the freshness of the product and how bountiful it can be in its natural environment. It’s amazing to see just how much fish there is and how much stuff you can actually forage for while you’re in the wilderness. We’re very lucky to have the range of ingredients that we do.
What’s your favourite coastal dish?
I’m a big fan of spot prawns sautéed in garlic and butter.
What’s the best wildlife encounter you’ve had on Passing Cloud?
That would be when a mother humpback whale and her calf played with the boat for about 45 minutes. It was really amazing.
What’s been your favourite expedition stop?
Definitely visiting SGang Gwaay in Gwaii Haanas. We were with an extremely knowledgeable guide and the site’s Watchmen there were great. To get immersed in that kind of culture gave me goosebumps. I’m even getting them right now just talking about it.