Javier Acevedo always wanted his own professional kitchen and now he has it.
He is the chef and co-owner of Javier’s Latin Cuisine in Courtenay, alongside co-owner and manager Brian Ducedre. The restaurant just opened the doors to its colourful, festive interior.
“There’s no real authentic Latin American restaurant either in the Comox Valley or Campbell River,” says Ducedre. “This gives people the opportunity to have something different, something that’s made from scratch.”
Their tagline encompasses their philosophy behind what they offer: “From the heart of Latin America to the beautiful Comox Valley.”
So far, Acevedo and Ducedre have started with a smaller menu, but they expect to have the full menu available in early November. The soft opening was in mid-October, with many friends and family coming out, and they added lunches the following week.
“We started slow to be sure we are doing the right thing,” says Acevedo.
The interior of Javier’s offers bright colours, which should provide some cheer for locals during the darkest, greyest months of the year. There are a number of artifacts, such as mosaic-tiled mirrors, which they brought back from trips to Mexico.
The two had planned on opening a restaurant for a long time and almost found one to open in 2003, not long after they moved here from London, Ont.
“Both Javier and I have a passion for cooking,” says Ducedre.
Ducedre has now retired from his job in health care, while Acevedo, a Red Seal chef from Colombia, had worked in the kitchen at St. Joseph’s.
As well, many know Acevedo from his trademark sombrero while he was selling his empanadas and tamales at the farmer’s market. Ducedre chronicles their story on the restaurant’s website, saying they shared dishes from Acevedo’s mother, Araminta, with friends who told them they should sell Colombian food at the farmer’s market. Many friends also helped out during the preparations to get the building ready.
This summer, they were driving around in Courtenay, talking about how customers said how much they missed Acevedo’s food at the Saturday market, and they realized the time was right to open the restaurant. Now, Acevedo has his own space to make meals – something he has always wanted while working for others.
“My background is as a chef,” he says. “Finally, I have my own space, my own kitchen, my own way to do it.”
He emphasizes Colombian cooking is different from what some people might think of as Latin American food – in other words, Tex-Mex, with its salsa and sour cream. The core ingredients is his work, he says, are tomatoes, onion, cumin and garlic. Other dishes may feature flavours such as pepper or cilantro, though Acevedo says Colombian food typically isn’t as hot as some Latin American food. Everything is made by hand in Javier’s kitchen with quality ingredients.
“Nothing that’s brought into this restaurant is processed,” Ducedre adds.
The menu features a mix of Colombian, Peruvian and Mexican dishes.
“My food is simple, home-made food,” Acevedo says, adding he uses his mother’s recipes as the inspiration for his menu.
The pair also have plans for a fresh sheet each month with food from other countries available for specials on Friday and Saturday nights.
“Our goal is to introduce new items,” says Acevedo.
Javier’s Latin Cuisine is located at 307B-14th St. in Courtenay. More information is on the Facebook page and at javierslatincuisine.com