As a child, Jesse Keefer was introduced to the splendour of the natural world on weekends with his father, who built more than 100 km of trails through the UBC Endowment Lands (now Pacific Spirit Park) in Vancouver.
He first visited Galiano Island, an hour by ferry off the coast of B.C., to go horseback riding with his family. He was eight. “I remember we were driving through dark cedar woods, and then this big blue sky opened up. That’s my first memory of Bodega Ridge.”
The owner of the 22-acre property had built a rustic lodge, seven cabins, and a barn with horses. As a teenager Jesse visited Galiano often—cycling the island, horseback riding, camping at Montague Park—and kept being drawn back to Bodega.
In 2003, after a career as a cyclist on the North American circuit, he dropped out of university. He had no idea what he wanted to do. When he learned that the owner of Bodega was ready to retire, he realized he had found his direction. He developed a business plan, raised funds (thanks Anna & Bowie), bought Bodega, and embarked on the project that has challenged, obsessed, and excited him ever since.
Working long hours, teaching himself everything from landscaping to carpentry, he upgraded the property and facilities year by year. Friends asked if they could hold their wedding there. “I had no idea what was involved, but I said sure.” Guests spread the word about what an exceptionally beautiful place Bodega was. Universities inquired about departmental retreats. People started booking months ahead of time. And Jesse kept upgrading, improving, refining.
Over the years, Bodega has become a popular venue for companies such as Lululemon, Arc’teryx, Vega, Estee Lauder, Canada Goose, and Earls—as well as travellers from around the world. When guests are not busy with corporate matters, there’s no end of things to do and explore.
Jesse is always happy to share his love and intimate knowledge of the island, crafting custom itineraries. Kayaking and mountain biking. Jogging to Pebble Beach for a summer swim. Visiting Dionisio Park during wildflower season. Foraging for chanterelles in the fall. Enjoying a picnic lunch atop Mount Galiano, with its specacular view over the Southern Gulf and San Juan Islands.
“I want people to have an exceptional experience,” he says. “We’ve put together a staff who share our values and have the same long-term vision. My wife and I are raising our daughter here, and we want Edie to learn about community, sustainability, food security—how everything fits together.”
The food-and-beverage program shows a commitment to local suppliers—small craft breweries and Vancouver Island wineries, fresh seafood from the Penelakut First Nation, vegetables from Sunshine Farms and Cable Bay Farm—to say nothing of Bodega’s own fruit trees and burgeoning garden. No wonder so many fine chefs (including Jesse McCleery, Joel Watanabe, Alex Ploughman, Nico Schuermans, and David Gunawan) have taken a turn in the kitchen.
“One day we’ll be self-sustaining,” says Jesse. “Chickens, sheep, a bigger organic garden, our own vineyard. Solar power. A zero-waste kitchen. We’ve started milling our own wood and making our own furniture. We’ll do metal fabrication, ceramics. People who come back after a few years always comment on how much Bodega has changed. But really, we’ve just begun to explore the potential of this property.”
At Bodega Cove, the sister property down the road from Bodega Ridge, Jesse is building out the next stage of his vision. Last year he transformed the original cabins into stunning fusions of modern and rustic. Next step will be an oceanside restaurant and bar, with rooms upstairs. And finally a dock, for easy access to both properties.
Actually, there is no “finally.” One project leads to the next. A guest’s offhand idea for a recording studio gets Jesse doing serious research. His wife’s design talents flow through future possibilities. Bodega Ridge will always be more than an internationally acclaimed resort. It’s an unfolding creative venture that embodies the passion and vision of its proprietor.
James Langford Smith
Born and raised in Western Australia, James came to Galiano after opening and operating restaurants in Montana, California, Tofino (Sobo) and Vancouver (Kissa Tanto & Bao Bei). With a smile that is infectious and a warm, welcoming nature, James strives to give clients the best experience, whether in fine dining or foraging in the forest.
From being a former Aussie Rules football player, to making natural wine at one of his friends vineyards, to winning Restaurant Manager of the year in Vancouver and opening a restaurant that won Best New Restaurant in Canada you could not find a more well rounded leader. If you have other stops planned on your trip, don't hesitate to ask James where to go or eat. His enthusiasm is matched by his expertise!
For those of you who've not had the pleasure, let us introduce you to Angie, our beloved Event Director. Angie is a seasoned professional in wedding and event planning. As an Officiant she has performed over 200 weddings and as an award winning Wedding Planner, she facilitates more than 40 weddings a year on Galiano and the surrounding islands. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Hailing from the East, Angie made the move out to Vancouver at age 21, and established herself as an integral member of a well known tech company, where she met her now husband. Together the pair eventually made the move to a little boat access island, a stone's throw from Galiano with a total of just 9 permanent residents. Her commute to work involves a truck, a boat, and another truck before stepping out in consummate elegance to host one of our Bodega events. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
For all of us who've had the pleasure of working with Angie, we know her to be an incredibly special person. Not only is her capability and professionalism outstanding, but her warmth, attentiveness and humour make her an absolute joy to be around, for guests and staff alike.
Elmark is a Chef with extraordinary skill and range, much of which was honed under the watchful eye of David Robertson of Vancouver’s much adored Dirty Apron. With a passion for integrating the best fresh, local ingredients with the big flavours of Southeast Asian, Mediterranean and Latin Cuisine Elmark never ceases to amaze us.
“I like to challenge, create new recipes and so my cuisine can change and be molded to something different! Ultimately, I like cooking family style, because food should always be enjoyed in the company of others. Food is a great way to bring together love and great flavor!”
Elmark not only brings amazing food to Bodega, but also an amazing attitude and a big, beautiful smile.
What Our Guests are Saying...
The staff onsite was spectacular and so friendly - the service was on point and handled with so much love and care, the food was AMAZING (I wish I could taste it again), and the weather on our weekend was spectacular! You can tell that Bodega is a labor of immense love by Jesse and his entire team - they actually care about their guests and making sure you have a spectacular wedding. We honestly couldn’t have asked for a better experience for our wedding, it felt like absolute MAGIC and we plan to come back to Galiano and Bodega for years to come.
Callie - Berkely, CA