Why Whistler? A question that Whistler locals get asked all the time. And, although there are a variety of responses to this question, you can be sure they’ll answer with passion, pride and a fun story.
What is it about these mountains that draw people to them and then won’t let them go? How does the balance of work and lifestyle work here? What gets under people’s skin and embeds itself so deep that Whistler becomes part of their soul?
We ask a variety of Whistler locals Why Whistler? In Video 7, we chat with Steph and Jason Redmond, co-owners of The Raven Room alongside Brandi and Luke Woodnut. We talk about developing high-quality products, running a business with friends and how Vermouth should be kept in the fridge.
Why Did You Move Here?
Steph: I moved here for the summers, unlike a lot of people who come here for the winter. I love the hiking, biking and lakes. It was my husband who kept me here though; I tried to run away a few times, but he loves it here so much we had to stay. That’s a terrible answer, haha! No, I love the outdoors and how you can walk out of your door and be playing outside in five minutes; there’s not a lot of places in the world where you can do that.
Jason: This all started with a trip from Ontario to Jay Peak in Vermont. We’d heard there had been a snowfall of thirty feet, decided to rally, and when we got there it was chest-deep. I’d never seen snow like that before. I thought that’s it, I’m moving out west. I’d also gone travelling in Australia and East Asia, and when I got home to Ontario I found it a little closed-minded, it was too far from the ocean and the mountains seemed a bit small! I just needed to be out west, which is what my parents did when they travelled from Ireland to Canada, I just went further west.
Quality of life has kept me here. I came here for the skiing, but I do love the summers as well. Year-round it’s just a great place to be.
How Did You Get To Where You Are Today?
Steph: I’ve been in Whistler for fifteen years. We’ve worked really hard to get to where we are today. We’d been in the hospitality industry for over twenty years and I was starting to move out of it. I was working for Whistler’s environmental charity, AWARE, when Jason and Luke started planning the opening of a restaurant. I slowly got pulled back into it and I couldn’t be happier.
We’ve had The Raven Room for two and a half years, sixteen months of that were in a pandemic. Given that, I’m starting to think we might just make it!
Jason: I’ve been in hospitality most of my life. It was a side job while I was at university and a job I could do while I was travelling. I picked up a bunch of skills, serving, bartending, managing and just kept improving on those. The inspiration for The Raven Room came from wanting to own a place where you could get a high-quality martini alongside high-quality food.
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We keep our Vermouth in the fridge, so you can have a proper martini with us. We squeeze all our juice fresh, make our own syrups, no pop-gun mixers, we choose quality spirits, local spirits, and experiment with techniques that not many people try. I have a favourite drink, a classic, it’s a 102-year-old recipe; the Negroni, stiff stirred bitter, it’s delicious. We’re known for our rotating cocktail list, which we adjust every fall and spring, and we always have a selection of house creations, which are a little bit weird, a little bit different, but we also do the classics.
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What Do You Love About the Food & Beverage Industry?
Steph: I love putting high-quality products in front of people that I feel proud of, and then seeing their smiles and hearing their reactions; them being able to try new things because our team has got creative and thought of incredibly innovative ideas.
Jason: I love it when people leave our space with smiles and high-fives at the door; a high level of stoke. That gets me going.
What Do You Loathe About It?
Steph: It’s hard work, long hours and difficult to find staff. But that aside, there are so many positives in the challenges.
Jason: There’s not a lot that I don’t love. I knew the challenges when I signed up. I knew we were going to have to staff all the time, which just means I have to do more jobs.
What’s It Like Working With Your Partner?
Steph: It’s incredibly rewarding working with my partner in our own business because we get to share in our successes together, in our challenges together; it’s together. We chose to spend our lives together and we really are spending our lives together!
Jason and I will have a hot moment once in a while, but we like to say that when we walk through the black curtain it all goes away (editor: they use a black curtain to divide the back and front of house in their restaurant). We’re pretty good at dusting it off, but of course, every day is not perfect. Jason definitely complements me; he’s outgoing and definitely loves hanging out in the front of house and chatting with all the people. He’s the definition of hospitality in my mind, whereas I’m good at the behind-the-scenes stuff, the computer stuff, nerding out on excel spreadsheets and making sure everything keeps ticking along.
Jason: It’s fantastic! It can be challenging at times, but she’s so good at what she does. She does a lot of the things that I’m not strong at, we do complement each other.
What’s It Like Working With Close Friends?
Steph: Working with close friends is amazing. Even when staff start out as employees, they quickly turn into family. We’re all incredibly close, we all take care of each other. That’s what you have to do in Whistler. Your actual families are all far away and so what happens is that you end up becoming family with the people that are here.
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Jason: When I met Luke, we were working at different places, but we were on the same page about our next move and what we wanted to create. We sat down at the Dubh Linn Gate and planned the future out over a pint or two, maybe some whiskies. It’s fun and going well. We’re all focused on quality and keeping that stoke going. We always try to elevate each other, lift up our brand and help other businesses around Whistler with what we know. Luke says that a rising tide floats all boats, and I agree with that.
What’s It Like Being an Entrepreneur in Whistler?
Steph: It’s a difficult place to succeed, but the community is incredible and I’m still shocked some days that we have this. It feels like an honour to be a business owner in this climate, in this place.
Jason: There’s a phrase you hear a lot – living the dream – and I actually feel like I’m living the dream here. We get to do what we love, hopefully, make some money and get to see happy, smiling faces on a daily basis. We’re also an hour and a half away from Vancouver, so if we need that connection it’s right there, and vice versa.
What’s the Future?
Steph: More Raven Rooms to come, this is just the beginning. We don’t want to stop with this one; the last sixteen months have held us back a little, but we have big dreams which go beyond these walls.
Outside of Work, What Does an Average Summer Day Look Like?
Steph: It revolves around the lake. One of my values in life is having a wet head! I absolutely love swimming, whitewater rafting, anything to do with water; we’re always happiest when we’re around water. Lake life is about relaxing, hanging with people from all over the world, dog kisses at the dog park, jumping off the dock. It’s just a relaxing, welcoming environment. We also play in the Whistler Volleyball Association League (WOVA), it’s so much fun and usually ends with a beer in my hand!
Jason: There’s so much to do here in the summer, whether you’re golfing, hiking or biking, swimming in the lake, kayaking, a little beach volleyball, some bocce, sometimes just reading a book down by the water, get a little zen time before work.
Having a restaurant that opens in the evening means we can focus on being active during the day and then doing our thing at night. In the winter there’s lots of shredding before work, got to get those powder days in. I never have to miss a fresh powder morning, it’s ideal, it’s the dream.
Lake life in Whistler is the best. I like Rainbow Park because you can be active and then relax; so playing beach volleyball and then jumping in the lake. It’s nice to clean off the sand, get the sweat out of your eyes, freshwater, glacial views, you can’t beat it. I’ve been playing volleyball since I got here, so twenty years, the league is great and a lot of fun.
What Is It You Love About Whistler More Than Anywhere Else in the World?
Steph: We can access nature in a heartbeat. You can be surrounded by beauty, calm, peace, serenity and adventure in seconds. It’s one of the most incredible places I’ve been. There’s fresh air, clean water – we’re so lucky to live here. Work is busy, the business is busy, so to be able to go and relax in the sun, surrounded by mountains and being able to jump into a glacially-fed lake, there’s nothing more relaxing than that.
Jason: The quality of life and how many people come here from all over the world who we get to meet. I really enjoy hearing their stories, hearing where they’re from and planning my next trip based on something someone just told me at the bar.
What Makes You Proud to Call Whistler Home?
Steph: The community here in Whistler is very small, we’re at 12,000 people, but we play host to millions over a summer or winter season. We’re part of an open-armed, international community; it feels like you’re travelling, even when you’re in a small village.
Jason: It’s a great community of locals taking care of each other. We’re like-minded and an active community, which I find keeps you feeling young. The primary reason is lifestyle, work is secondary.
Has Living in Whistler Changed or Influenced You in Any Way?
Steph: Absolutely. I’d never live anywhere else, it’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been. I feel so lucky to live here. I have a travel itch, but I don’t feel that as much here because you can connect with people from other cultures all the time. What I’m most excited about with the borders opening up are our international guests.
Jason: Definitely. Aging is on pause. I’m trying to keep up with the 20-somethings dropping cliffs in the winter and trying to beat them at volleyball in the summer.
What Gives Whistler Its Heart & Soul?
Steph: The mountains. That’s it.
Jason: I’m going to agree with my wife on that one. The mountains give Whistler its heart and soul. I think we’re all here for the mountains.
If this tempts you to try The Raven Room, we suggest making a reservation as this summer has turned into a busy one! Take a read of Summer Sippers: The Insider’s Guide to Summer Cocktails in Whistler, which highlights a couple of The Raven Room’s cocktails.
Ross Reid is our talented videographer on this project. To see more of his work visit his website.