Estelle Blanchette, founder of Jasper Food Tours, explains to Steve Hartridge how she’s helping visitors explore the town's history and culture through its cuisine

In the beginning

Self-confessed foodie Estelle Blanchette was working as the media and distribution manager for Tourism Jasper when she took a food tour in Vancouver and had a eureka moment.

“Jasper also needs this,” she thought and, given her background as a hotel manager and overseeing kitchens and restaurants, realised she could be the one to put it together. Jasper Food Tours was born, daily-operated three-hour walking tours that start out (at 14.30) from the town's Visitor Information Center – with no minimum number of participants required for them to run.

The tours showcase Jasper's diverse food scene but also take in the small railway town’s rich history – such as its once-role in the fur trade – its mountain culture and some of its communities.

Eclectic cuisine

The small group tours weave around Jasper’s historic attractions, including Locomotive 6015, the Two Brothers Totem Pole and the Jasper Heritage Fire Hall, stopping for refreshments at four locally-owned restaurants where guests are served a dish paired with an alcoholic or soft drink.

The restaurants, chosen not only for the quality of their food but also for their backstories and their community involvement, are very different from each other, which demonstrates the diversity of Jasper’s cuisine, which Estelle describes as ‘eclectic’.

“You’ll find plenty of Canadian classics, with lots of the beef Alberta is famed for, and game meat. We also have a growing craft brewery scene, but it’s the people that really inspire the cuisine in town,” she adds.

“There is an important Greek influence here and international fusions of all sorts. The food is very much a reflection of our diverse community.

“In fact, most of the workforce here isn’t from Jasper or even Canada.

"People come to the town from all corners of the world on a working holiday: we have lots of Australians, and those from all over Europe, Asia, Mexico and the Caribbean.

"They are the ones inspiring the cuisine, hence why you may find a beautiful BC Wild Sockeye Salmon served with gorgeous Pico de Gallo,” she added.

Jasper’s local and international mix is reflected in Estelle’s choice of restaurant stops on her tour.

These include the Raven Bistro, a Moroccan/Mediterranean fusion restaurant; the Mediterranean-style Olive Bistro; the more traditional Jasper Brewing Co, the first brewery to operate in a Canadian National Park and the founding brewery of the Bearhill Family of Alberta breweries; and the De’d Dog Bar in the historic Astoria Hotel, owned by the Andrews family for four generations.

Community stories

“We talk a lot about the entrepreneurs behind each restaurant, their family and connection with the community,” said Estelle, who has taken her business to new heights this year with the launch of a Peak-Nic tour, a 3.8 kilometre hike to the top of a local peak followed by a backcountry cooking lesson.

While farm-to-table food sourcing isn’t easy to achieve in Jasper, due to its mountain location, the Jasper Local Food Society brings weekly farmers markets to town in the summer. The society is also responsible for the community gardens project, which Estelle and her guests visit on the Food Tour.

Jasper Food Tours work with all the major receptive wholesalers that partner with UK tour operators. •