St. Jean’s Cannery is a family owned and operated business that has been a mainstay in Nanaimo for fifty years. Started by Armand St. Jean in 1961, today it remains a family affair with son Gerard taking over from his father’s humble beginnings, selling his home-smoked oysters to local bars. In a West Coast fishing industry that has been in steady decline for years, business is booming at St. Jean’s making it a remarkable success story. So when Armand’s grandson Dave St. Jean invited us to tour his family’s cannery, we were gung ho and ready to view (and hopefully eat) a ridiculous amount of seafood.
Each year seafood lovers gather in the Comox Valley for the BC Shellfish Festival, the largest of its kind on the West Coast. Celebrating its 6th anniversary, this year’s festivities kicked off on Tuesday, June 12th with a screening of the documentary “Shellshocked” followed by the Mott’s Clamato Best Caesar in Town Competition on Thursday, which we had the pleasure of judging. Next on the festival calendar was a seafood extravaganza also known as the Chefs’ Dinner. We were kindly invited to take part in this wonderful celebration of locally produced shellfish.
As we raced down the highway, rocking out to Van Morrison dressed in our formal wear, our mouths watered in anticipation of eating freshly shucked oysters, clams, mussels and geoducks. With over 200 guests to be treated to a gourmet, six-course seafood feast by an all star chef line-up, this sold out dinner was the hottest ticket in town. Each chef collaborated with a BC shellfish grower and their product to bring their original seafood creations to the guests. Factor in a bottle of BC wine paired with each course, and you got a sense of the urgency we were feeling with a 120 kilometre drive separating us from this seafood gorge fest. Continue reading