Backyard Farm’s New Venture Is Farm-to-Table Dining at Its Finest

The Okanagan Valley culinary experience just opened its outdoor dining and event space in its orchard
Chef Chris Van Hooydonk (Photograph: Graham Cox)

For Chris Van Hooydonk, a typical morning these days might start with wandering out to his orchard to pick some two-pound peaches that he’ll later serve at his on-site dining venue—grilled as a sweet accompaniment to house-smoked char, or made into a jam for filling handmade chocolate bonbons. The B.C.-based chef was born near Edmonton, but he always had an inkling that the farm life was for him.

Van Hooydonk spent his early career working in demanding, upscale French-influenced kitchens in Boston as well as in B.C.’s Okanagan wine country, yet he craved a grounded, balanced life where he could grow what he cooked.

The outside of Backyard Farm Chef’s Table in Okanagan Valley
Backyard Farm Chef’s Table has become one of the Okanagan Valley’s top dining destinations (Photograph: Graham Cox)

And so in late 2013, he purchased a historic farmhouse and acreage next door to the south Okanagan home he shares with his wife, Mikkel, and their two daughters, for $400,000. After investing another $50,000 into renovations and repairs, Van Hooydonk officially opened Backyard Farm Chef’s Table—a 20-seat private culinary experience serving seasonal food grown on-site, which has since become one of the Okanagan Valley’s most renowned dining destinations, often booking up a year in advance.

Chef Chris Van Hooydonk cutting sourdough bread at his Okanagan restaurant Backyard Farm Chef's Table
The team—there’s five full-time staff members and five part-time ones—always has fresh bread baking when guests arrive; one of their sourdough starters, affectionately named Delilah, was developed from the fruit of a 65-year-old Italian plum tree on the property (Photograph: Graham Cox)

Now a decade later, Backyard Farm Chef’s Table is starting a new chapter by adding a one-of-a-kind outdoor dining and event space in its orchard. “Being seated in our new patio area is actually sitting in the orchard looking at the fruit trees, being surrounded by hazelnut trees, which brings forth a sense of place,” says Van Hooydonk. “It’s that connection of saying, ‘You’re eating this peach in a butter sauce with your B.C. halibut. And there’s the peach tree that peach came from.’” Put otherwise, it’s table-to-farm dining at its finest.

The new addition to Backyard Farm Chef’s Table is the outdoor venue
For the last few years, the future of Backyard Farm Chef’s Table was in jeopardy due to zoning bylaws and Agricultural Land Commission regulations prohibiting “non-farm” use, but as of April 2023, the private venue has been approved as an “Agriculinary Dining and Catering Operation,” the first approval of its kind in B.C. Backyard Farm Chef’s Table is currently awaiting site specific re-zoning by the Regional District, due to be completed later this summer (Photograph: Graham Cox)

The patio project took two years with the help of contractor Warren Brown of Desert Valley Consulting. And while its total cost to complete—$55,000—was higher than Van Hooydonk originally hoped to pay, he says the rustic-chic result will exceed the expectations of diners this summer, with a gable roof, Douglas fir tongue-and-groove soffits, vintage-cinema lighting, Allen block walls and custom screening by local design firm Alberto’s Decorating to keep out dust and bugs. 

Van Hooydonk hopes to open an outdoor kitchen to accompany the new patio space next, and is planning on incorporating more casual programming, like afternoon charcuterie and family-style meals, into the venue’s offerings.

A photo of two chefs preparing a meal with metal bowls and white plates
We’re harvesting and using 100 per cent of what we grow,” says Van Hooydonk. In addition to being used in meals, fresh ingredients such as house-made vinaigrettes, peach and apricot chutney, membrillo, apple butter, hot sauce and salsa from heirloom tomatoes are also available for guests to purchase (Photograph: Graham Cox)

Like the main dining room, the orchard space seats 20 at three large tables made from weathered, reclaimed teak with industrial-looking cast iron bases, purchased at $1,200 a pop from Vancouver’s Antique Market Warehouse. The space can be reconfigured with smaller tables and wine-barrel drop spots for standing receptions like private parties or corporate functions.

“It’s a really warm feeling. The lighting is soft, the doors are amazing. All of the furniture is a conversation piece,” Van Hooydonk says. “And at nighttime, especially, with everything growing around, it just feels like a very, very private space.” 

Adrienne Matei
Adrienne Matei
Adrienne Matei is a freelance journalist based in Vancouver, Canada. She writes about culture, technology, lifestyle, the environment, and more.