Jonathon Gee is the man behind Wild Forager Catering, which has had to make many changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed)

Jonathon Gee is the man behind Wild Forager Catering, which has had to make many changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed)

Agassiz caterer making it work in pandemic-altered kitchen

Wild Forager is looking forward in a future filled with twists

When Jonathon Gee started Wild Forager Catering in January 2019, he knew he was taking a leap of faith.

“It happened so fast, I really had no time to think about it,” he said about the start of the company, which he runs with his wife Erin Goosen.

The first month they started, they were contacted to do the catering for CBC’s production of Still Standing, which was filming in Harrison Hot Springs.

The business snowballed from there, with Gee and Goosen taking on local weddings and events like Seabird Island’s community dinner and the Magic of Christmas event.

Gee would rent out Agassiz’s Agricultural Hall to use its kitchens, and would occasionally set up little events of his own, like the soup pop up at the 2019 CP Holiday Train.

“By the end of 2019, we were doing 500-people dinners,” Gee said. “Then bam. COVID hits out of nowhere. It sent our whole industry for a topsy turvy.”

RELATED: ‘It’s good all around’ – Local restaurants, caterers adapt to COVID-19

Suddenly, Gee lost all his bookings from spring until the fall. People cancelled or pushed back the dates on their event.

When casinos closed, Gee lost his side job as well.

“It’s been tough for me, because I had that other income that was keeping us up,” Gee said. “It kind of put us in a tight situation.”

Wild Forager took out a loan to keep going, and Gee applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Summer came, restrictions loosened for many British Columbians, and Gee found himself in the kitchen again — this time cooking for weddings of less than 50 people, and other smaller events.

Of course, COVID meant he had to change the way his business did its business.

Tables at his events were six feet apart, and staff served meals from the buffet rather than guests getting them on their own. Plates were cleared when everyone was finished eating, and everyone is wearing gloves and masks — “just like a restaurant basically,” Gee said.

SEE ALSO: Frustration grows amid restaurateurs over lack of data linking industry to COVID-19

When cases started climbing in the fall, and then provincial health orders restricted gatherings across the Fraser Valley and beyond, Gee’s business suffered another blow.

“When we started hurting, we were like, what can we do?” he said. “Everybody’s doing the pick-up, so it’s one of the changes we saw come through the industry.”

Gee’s version of a pick-up dinner is Wild Forager’s pop ups, where patrons can pick up a meal cooked by Gee at the Agricultural Hall and eat it in their own home.

A greek dinner from Wild Forager’s Jan. 22 pop up event. (Tanya Jeyachandran/Contributed)

These had started before the pandemic as a way for Gee to try out different menu options and exercise some creative flair, and picked up again when the pandemic made large party catering impossible.

So far, Gee said the response to these pop up dinners has been “fantastic,” with around 40 people calling to reserve their meals at each event.

In February, Wild Forager will be hosting a pop up dinner each Friday, plus one for Superbowl Sunday (Feb. 7) and Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14).

Gee is also looking into other ideas for his kitchen, including partnering with local farms to create freezer meals or dinner kits. He is already working with Agassiz’s Creekside Dairy to bring local meat into his dishes.

RELATED: Family traditions key to Agassiz dairy farm

Although these new endeavours might be exciting, they’re not what Gee had envisioned when he first started Wild Forager.

But, he said, “we made do. Made changes.”

Soon, Gee hopes Wild Forager may be able to grow beyond the Agricultural Hall and get into its own brick and mortar building.

“It’s scary, because there are so many unknowns with the pandemic, but everybody faces those,” Gee said.

“We have to do the best that we can and just ask for the community’s support.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Snow is still coming down in Hemlock Valley. (Emil Anderson Maintenance/Twitter)
VIDEO: Spring is coming, but snow sticking around in Hemlock Valley

If you’re up the mountain, don’t put away your toques just yet

The incident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. amid heavy rains on the 29900 Block of the highway, near the Silverdale community. Shane MacKichan photo.
VIDEO: Late-night rollover crash on Lougheed Highway in Mission sends 2 to hospital

Jaws of Life used; patients sustained non-life threatening injuries

(File Photo)
Harrison residents invited to make their homes more energy efficient

A revived progam will see residents receive free energy-saving measures, home assessment

Avalon Butchart in her kayak on Hicks Lake, painting in hand. (Avalon Butchart/Contributed)
Pandemic pushes Agassiz artist into plein air painting

Avalon Butchart heard a ‘call from God’ to bring her painting outdoors

The eastern Fraser Valley is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.
11 new COVID-19 cases in Agassiz, Harrison during last week of February

The number of positive test results is a jump from the three cases the week before

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

Most Read