Glacier Valley Bistro started with lunch but has since added breakfast options. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Bistro puts food in bellies, smiles on faces in Courtenay

Tough circumstances prompted Colin Zarecki to do what he loves

Glacier Valley Bistro’s Colin Zarecki trained in the culinary arts, but he got sidetracked in other jobs, including some food-related ones, but it wasn’t what he wanted to do. He wanted to serve up his own food.

Some life-changing experiences eventually prompted him to return to this original plan.

“I’d rather do what I love,” he says. “Putting food in bellies and smiles on faces was what I wanted to do.”

First, he got cancer and was treated. However, during surgery, he picked up an infection that put him in the hospital for a long period of time. On top of this, he and his girlfriend were expecting, but they lost the baby late in the pregnancy. The strain ultimately brought the relationship to an end. Faced with such circumstances, Zarecki decided it was time to do what he loved.

“Life is precious, and at any moment it can be gone,” he says.

READ MORE: Frankie’s fried chicken fingers in Comox have family touch

He had put together a business plan as part of his culinary training, and he was able to access program funding called Be Your Own Boss to help him revise it for this area. He researched locations and what was missing, and he decided on Glacier Valley Bistro. With fewer dining options in the south end of Courtenay, he wanted something to cater to shoppers and people working in the area. There, he serves up home-style lunches during the day, with a focus on sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads. He offers gluten-free, and vegan and vegetarian options too. He has since added breakfast options and expanded his hours and staffing, without raising prices, from when he opened in December 2017.

“Aside from the breakfast, it really hasn’t changed too much,” he says.

Zarecki is originally from northwestern Ontario and worked in Yukon Territory for years, but he started to look at Vancouver Island after his parents retired to Nanaimo.

“I came down to the Island to kind of regroup,” he says.

Both parents are good cooks, he says, and he raves about his mother’s waffles, and uses this as inspiration for some variations of his own, even offering a “Weekend Waffle” special. The bistro also offers some unexpected lunch choices like a dill pickle soup.

“It’s not what you think,” he says. “I’ve had people who don’t like dill pickles finish whole bowls.”

In all, he aims to keep things simple rather than overload customers with too many choices. He also emphasizes quality ingredients and goes out of his way to source local foods for his menu. He’s also given the bistro some local flavour in terms of décor, with pictures by local artists and some old reclaimed wood from the original 5th Street Bridge. There’s even an old Brown Bess musket on the wall.

So far, Zarecki is happy with the response he’s received, and he’s looking for ways to support the Comox Valley for the support it has given him since he opened the doors at Glacier Valley Bistro.

“The whole point is to give back,” he adds.

Glacier Valley Bistro is at #4-3195 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay. You can find more information, including specials, online at or on the Facebook page at GlacierValleyBistro.

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