Nature Gala features outstanding food to ignite the senses and inspire connections. We are honoured to introduce you to the chefs responsible for crafting this year’s culinary experience.

Chef Amanda Cohen

Dirt Candy

Amanda Cohen is the James Beard-nominated chef and owner of Dirt Candy, the award-winning vegetable restaurant on New York City’s Lower East Side.  She is also one of the Iron Chefs on Iron Chef Canada, and she is a board member and treasurer of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.

In 2018, New York Magazine named Dirt Candy “The Absolute Best Restaurant on the Lower East Side” and Wine Enthusiast selected it as one of the 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America.

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Chef Kristian Eligh

Toptable Group

Kristian Eligh was born for the culinary world. His dream to train and work with leading chefs from around the world is evident in the Michelin-starred kitchens he’s staged in like The French Laundry, Jean-Georges, Perry Street, Blackbird and McCrady’s Restaurant.

Kristian now returns to the kitchen as he joins Toptable Group as Executive Chef of an exciting Victoria restaurant project scheduled for opening later this year.

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Chef Justin Leboe

Model Milk / Pigeonhole

Chef Justin Leboe spent his early career learning in some of the most prestigious kitchens in North America. Refining his skills throughout the US, Bermuda and Australia, Leboe’s travels and mentors helped trigger his entrepreneurial spirit. He is the only Chef to establish 3 restaurants in the top 3 on the enRoute’s Best New Restaurant list.

Recipient of the coveted 2013 Pinnacle Award for Canadian Chef of the Year in 2013, and Canada’s 100 Best awards in 2016 for Most Innovative Chef, Leboe has helped raise the profile of Calgary as a culinary destination.

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Chef Nicholas Waters

Toque Catering

Chef Nicholas Waters’ path to Toque includes an impressive list of must-dine B.C. restaurants. He worked for six years under the tutelage of Chef Christophe Letard at The Aerie Resort before moving to the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino. When Chef Nicholas Waters decided to quit restaurants, he found himself in a humble job at a resort on the Queen Charlotte’s where he gathered ingredients every day. When he returned to Victoria, he intuited that catering would be at the forefront of his future endeavours.

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Chef Takashi Ito


Award-winning Chef Takashi Ito was born in Sendai, Japan, where he was introduced to complex and delicious foods at a young age by his father. Through working as the Executive Chef for The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C. as well as Calgary, Alberta’s Fairmont Palliser, Ito developed a unique style of Japanese‐influenced cuisine which celebrates the true flavours of fresh, local ingredients.

Executive Chef Takashi has now led the culinary teams at Inn at Laurel Point and AURA waterfront restaurant + patio since 2011. The food philosophy throughout the Inn focuses on using sustainable, local and seasonal ingredients. AURA, known nationwide for its culinary dream-team and unique Pacific Rim menus, offers dining far beyond the norm.

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