Kaelhub Cudmore is a home-grown success story. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, Cudmore spent his teen years washing dishes in a tiny tearoom in small-town Duncan, where he fell in love with the restaurant business. But his culinary career didn’t really take shape until he left his home town of Victoria.
“I decided to take things more seriously, work my way up and progress more. I left Victoria to work at destination resorts around the province for 11 years,” he says. “I did everything from fishing to heli-skiing and eventually found myself at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, located in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, 30 minutes by boat from Tofino. I worked my way up to become senior sous chef. I spent eight years doing that, which is really when I started standing on my own two feet in a big way.”
Subsequently, he had the opportunity to work on three different cruiseships, opening restaurants for American chef, Thomas Keller. He then landed at the iconic Fairmont Empress, where he worked for three years as a banquet chef until the beginning of the pandemic.
His many achievements have been earned through skill and experience, as opposed to the traditional culinary-school route. Twice he attended school — once for computer programming and a second time for media studies majoring in photography — but he never felt the same fulfillment as he did when working in a kitchen.
“I’m a firm believer in doing what comes easily to you and what just feels right. And it always just felt right. The kitchen is a natural place for me to be.”
In June, Cudmore took the reins as executive chef at Roar, the onsite restaurant at Hotel Zed Tofino. Roar is an open live-fire, interactive kitchen and charcoal-fuelled restaurant rooted in “respect and rebellion.”
“I personally rebel against the status quo of kitchens,” says Cudmore. “Respect towards all the people around me is paramount — the most important thing we do here in the kitchen is support and respect each other; and that comes before the food. The mindset that we’re all in here to do well for each other is what leads the kitchen.”
Cudmore says launching Roar during a pandemic is a testament to the resiliency of the industry. “Each and every one of us is a lot stronger and resilient than we initially thought.”
Modelled after Patagonian-inspired cooking, Roar delivers “respectful, honest campfire inspired food,” made with fresh local ingredients from the island.
“When we create different dishes, we think of flavours first as opposed to how it necessarily looks,” he explains. “A lot of restaurants go for visual presentations first and foremost. My mindset for this restaurant is that it’s more rustic; we’re showing off the ingredients and are more flavour focused.”
Cudmore’s most unique dish on Roar’s menu is the Smoked Prime Roast Watermelon, featuring a chamomile and mint-rubbed whole-roasted watermelon, seasonal vegetables and chermoula (a marinade and relish used in Algerian, Libyan, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking, $24).
The describes his culinary style as, “Very true to the ingredients and respectful and honest to the food being cooked and where it comes from. I don’t like to overcomplicate things or hide ingredients. I like to really showcase food for what it is and let the flavour shine.”
When he isn’t in the kitchen, the outdoor-activity enthusiast spends a lot of his free time camping, hiking, motorcycling, scuba diving, free diving and skiing.
Going forward, Cudmore’s plans for Roar are to “develop it into a safe place for people and to build a reputation around respect. I want to teach the mindset that if we’re all in it together, and we have each other’s backs, the food and quality will follow.”
Written by Caitlyn Robinson