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Roger Gillespie Cooks Up Tastes of Summerland

Summerland is a quaint town in the Okanagan Valley of Canada’s British Columbia. It may not seem like the place to go for gourmet food and fine wine, but it is quickly becoming known for both. One of those who is leading in that movement is Chef Roger Gillespie, owner of Victoria Road Deli & Bistro.

Roger Gillespie was born and raised in Winnipeg, but has worked throughout Canada in the restaurant business. He started in 20 years ago at the Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta and then managed Pointe Restaurant in Tofino, where he built a wine collection there that won numerous awards.  From there he went to Whistler, working as the assistant sommelier at Araxi, before becoming the food and beverage manager at the Harvest Golf Club in the Okanagan Valley.

It was 1998 when Gillespie first visited the Okanagan “and fell in love with the region and all it had to offer a food and wine lover.” In 2004, he moved to Summerland and began work for Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and See Ya Later Ranch. He was the hospitality manager there before his passion for food led him to think more about concentrating in that area and starting a place of his own.

Victoria Road Deli & Bistro opened its doors in June, 2008. It’s all about seasonal, fresh and local, and the chef oversees everything, including greeting the customers between slicing, dicing and sautéing vegetables he grows in his own garden. “I absolutely love working with heirloom tomatoes I grow on my own property,” says Gillespie.  He uses those tomatoes for “anything from making my own seasonal ketchups to fresh tomato salads with Buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil.”

The focus at Victoria Road is mostly Mediterranean, though you will find a strong influence of Gillespie’s love for Charcuterie. His signature disk is a Smoked Duck Ham with Fresh Linguine, Morel Mushrooms and a Truffle Cream, which is as good as it sounds. Customers can enjoy homemade pasta, risotto or a Panini (try the turkey with asparagus and melted brie) in the bistro or take the dishes to go. It’s worth reserving a table on the weekends as you will also find live music there.

Summerland is definitely home to Gillespie, who has served as President of the Chamber of Commerce and works with the tourism board. The popularity of Victoria Road leads to speculation of an expansion or additional restaurant, but he’s in no rush, “I am always exploring my next opportunity and believe there is a great potential in Summerland and the entire Okanagan, but for now I am content to concentrate on my current location — and my son, Aiden.”

By Marcia Frost