“ A couple of almost indescribable generosity…Artie is an apostle of service…Lisa’s food is marked by a sense of adventure that alludes to the vocabulary of western ranch cooking but speaks more natural of her global intuitions.” Gourmet Magazine
New Brunswicker Artie Ahier and Texan Lisa Ahier bring their unique blend of maritime mettle and Southwestern passion to their Tofino restaurant, SoBo (short for Sophisticated Bohemian), opened in 2003. This husband and wife team has been creating culinary magic together for the past 17 years all over the world. Their shared passion for sustainable harvesting and farming, as well as for locally sourced ingredients, has shaped their endeavours during their time together and this continues to hold true for them in the incredible wilderness of the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The Ahiers’ lives and careers first intertwined in 1993 when Artie was the captain on a 70-ft yacht in Florida and Lisa was cook and first mate. Brought together by their shared interests in travel, nature, wildlife and great food, Lisa and Artie moved on to open and manage the Fossil Rim Wildlife Centre – a 1,700-acre wildlife reserve in Texas known globally for its conservation programs and scientific research.
Lisa decided to hone her skills at the Culinary Institute of America in New York for 18 months, starting in 1997. Living in the Hudson Valley opened up an incredible awareness of farm fresh products for Chef Ahier, who graduated from CIA with honours. This new awareness led her to work under the tutelage of renowned award-winning Chef Melissa Kelly at the Old Chatham Shepherding Company Inn – a working farm in upstate New York. Here she further developed her affinity for incorporating locally grown, fresh ingredients into original recipes.
The Ahiers’ next assignment took them back to Texas to the Cibolo Creek Ranch – a working ranch and world-class destination. It was at Cibolo Creek that Lisa’s “fresh food from here and there” signature menu began to gain notoriety. Gourmet Magazine described her food as “marked by a sense of adventure that alludes to the vocabulary of western ranch cooking but that speaks more naturally of her global intuitions.” This experience became a highlight and defining moment for the Ahiers’ hospitality careers, as the property and Chef Ahier were recognized as being in the top five Rustic Retreats in the Top Tables 2000 issue of Gourmet Magazine.
The Ahiers were inspired to travel to Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island after reading an article about the inn and owners Sinclair and Frederique Phillips. It seemed the perfect place to re-hydrate after three years in the Chihuahuan Desert. Following Sinclair’s recommendations, they soon found themselves in Tofino where they found themselves home.
After opening two resorts on the West Coast and welcoming their son Barkley, the Ahiers scaled back, simplified their lives and realized their dream of opening their own business.
SoBo was started in a well-equipped purple catering truck to rave reviews from locals. News of the Ahiers’ fresh and amazing food soon reached visitors and Lisa and Artie were blown away when they were named one of the top 10 Canadian restaurants in En Route magazine in their opening year, 2003.
The awards and accolades have continued, along with SoBo’s evolution. In 2007 the Ahiers moved SoBo from the truck into the upscale Conradi Building on Neill St. in Tofino. Their new location has allowed the popular restaurant to take on another incarnation – as the new dinner hotspot in town.
The same fresh and amazing offerings that SoBo’s reputation was built on are still available, as are take-away fresh frozen soups and wood-fired pizzas from an outdoor pizza oven.
The Ahiers welcomed daughter Ella in 2005 and the family continues to realize their dream of pursuing the craft they love surrounded by wilderness and abundant wildlife in the welcoming community of Tofino.