Etienne and Leslie both work as chefs at Whistler’s Rim Rock Cafe; they are also the owners and cooks behind Babalicious.
Both bring an extensive amount of experience and personality into their cooking, making them the ultimate dream team of Babalicious. Let’s dive in and get to know them a little more!
Etienne recalls not having a definite moment of knowing when he wanted to become a chef, but as a kid, he would often start dinner to help out his mother on the days she was working late. Once into his teenager and young adult years, he very much enjoyed the experience of cooking for friends and roommates. He felt gratification with whipping up meals and started to feel a natural talent with it. Etienne did a few years of the ski bum life and then pursued cooking school.
He started by doing a summer job of washing dishes at 15. It was a Kitschy fish and Seafood restaurant on the St. Laurent River located in the town where he grew up near Quebec. It drew in many tourists. Things took a turn when the owner burned the place down and tried to collect the insurance money. He got caught and sent to jail. Yikes! This incident still didn’t deter Etienne from pursuing cooking.
Together they came up with Babalicious; inspiration drew from creating meals for the Rim Rock staff. They wanted to explore a way for food to be stored within the freezer but still keep their delicious and tasty flavours; that’s where the vac-pack technique came into play.
Etienne’s favourite part of cooking is the opportunities for on-going learning. Cooking is infinite as there are so many different cuisines, ingredients, techniques, history and cultures to incorporate onto the plate. “I don’t think I have a favourite cuisine to cook if we talk nationally,” Etienne says. He likes to immerse himself in whatever cuisine he is cooking and to research authentic ingredients. He doesn’t like things to be fussy or to torture ingredients into something they are not. “I like classics, I like rustic, I like farm to table,” he explains.
He loves the outdoors, spending time with family, camping, fishing, surf trips in Tofino, snowboarding and also enjoys cooking for fun at home!
Introducing… Leslie (aka Baba)
Leslie started her cooking career by catering with a friend and getting cooking gigs though her brother. He was filming small movies for school, so it was the perfect opportunity to cook for the actors and crew. It inspired Leslie to make way to cooking school, where she attended De Brule in Vancouver. Once school wrapped up, Leslie found work at a place called Bishops and the Moustache Cafe, working “stage,” which means to work for free to gain experience, which naturally leads to a paying job at a place called, Balentines.
Leslie made a move up to Whistler after cheffing for a snowboard camp called Superpipe, wanting to try the mountain life, and lucky for us, has never left since then! Leslie has been working at the Rim Rock Cafe for about 20 years, which is also how she came to meet Etienne. In the early years, Leslie trained Etienne on the garde-manger station (oversees cold food production), witnessing how great of a cook he was, and both of them got along very well.
Before launching Babalicious together, they started to brainstorm what kind of business could help out their friends that always complained about cooking for their families due to busy schedules. They wanted to create something that could be kept in the freezer so that the meal was ready to go on the nights people wanted to have a break from cooking.
Through her career, Leslie is motivated by challenges to keep improving as a chef, drawing inspiration from flavours, food combinations, travelling, or gardening. She constantly looks for innovative ways to bring an incredible dining experience to the table. “Hitting the perfect flavour accompaniment is so satisfying and pleasing to the people, you are cooking for!” Leslie explains.
Her favourite cuisine to cook is Indian, as she especially loves making curries. She describes the smells as, “intoxicating” bringing back memories from travelling India.
Like Etienne, in her downtime, she and her family love to hike, garden, fish, spend time in Tofino, swim in the ocean, enjoy bonfires, and soak up the outdoor life.
Both agree it’s been a crazy time during Covid for their business but have been able to ease people’s pressures by supplying them with great meals. Hearing people's feedback on the meals gives them the motivation to keep cooking and sharing their creations with the community.
Future goals include that they hope to transition into a full-time business that can provide for their family one day. They would love to have space to facilitate cooking seminars and cooking lessons, plus a place to sell their products.
Leslie and Etienne love to share their knowledge on food-related topics. The dream would be to have a community food hub where they could have guest chefs, sommeliers, farmers, blacksmiths, cheesemakers, pastry chefs and more!
For now, they continue to enjoy and cook their meals for the sea-to sky community!
Tips for the Upcoming Chef
Do you want to become a cook? Here are a few helpful tips!
Be prepared to work hard
show up on time (10 min before)
be proactive and take initiative
forget about reality tv and superstar chefs, you won’t make it. Harsh but 99% true
Shut up and listen
“Work hard and earn your stripes, then demand what you are worth.”- Leslie