By Alyssa Evans
Maybe you’ve seen him around or tried one of his award-worthy sweets at Semiahmoo Resort. If not, perhaps the first time you’ll get a glimpse of chef Bruno Feldeisen, 52, is on Food Network.
Feldeisen, executive chef at Semiahmoo Resort, Golf and Spa, was featured on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” on July 6. He competed against chef Michelle Gayer for a chance to compete against celebrity chef Bobby Flay.
“I’m happy to be on the show but I’m happy for Blaine and Whatcom County to be showcased on a national level because it’s a gem,” Feldeisen said. “It’s so unique, so beautiful. Everybody in the world should know about us.”
Before Flay’s show, Feldeisen competed on Chopped Canada, Sweet Genius and Donut Showdown. He is currently filming another show that will be on national television for several weeks.
Winning and losing isn’t what matters about being on a cooking show, Feldeisen said. Rather, it’s simply being given the opportunity to be on.
“I always believe life is full of opportunities. We have to grab them and live,” Feldeisen said. “To do the show is nerve wracking. It’s very intense. You shoot live so there is no cut, no do it again. If they say you have 20 minutes to cook your dish, you really only have 20 minutes. If you don’t know the ingredients, you don’t know the ingredients.”
Participants don’t know who their opponents are until they meet in person on set. Shooting starts at 8 a.m. and takes 12 hours, Feldeisen said.
Feldeisen’s career began in France when he worked as an apprentice at a chocolate shop. After working and gaining success in France, he moved to the U.S.
Since the move, Feldeisen has held a variety of prestigious roles both in the U.S. and Canada, where he moved about eight years ago. A few of the gigs he’s held include working at the Four Seasons in New York and Vancouver, running his own American-French restaurant in San Francisco and teaching at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver.
Feldeisen was named one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America by Chocolatier Magazine and was nominated twice for the James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Award. He was also a finalist in the International Pastry Chef of the Year competition in New York.
Blaine is the smallest town Feldeisen has worked in.
“When I came I wasn’t sure it would be a good fit for me but I’m always curious and I believe in opportunity so I came down and I fell in love the moment I was driving by the border,” Feldeisen said. “Blaine has something unique about it, something authentic. I like this small-town feeling where you know you’re going to know your neighbor.”
The resort and the community beat any big city, Feldeisen said.
Before his success in the kitchen, Feldeisen struggled at home. He never met his father and his mother was a drug addict. He ended up on the streets as a child and left school at 15.
“I don’t have an education, I don’t have a high school degree. I have nothing. Yet, I make a good income, I’m well respected. I’m part of the community,” Feldeisen said. “This is one of the last careers where you can do this with no diploma, no anything. The problem is in our society everyone needs a diploma to do something.”
Feldeisen talks to his clients, some of which are doctors and CEOs, and they don’t care if he has an education, he said. He tells his kitchen staff they can go as far as they want and he is a perfect example.
“The kitchen gave me what I could never imagine I could get. You can pay $50,000 a year for an education and not get the same experiences, the same opportunities,” Feldeisen said. “Maybe I’m lucky but maybe it’s more than luck. It’s opportunity. When you see opportunity, don’t ignore it, go for it.”
As an adult in his early 30s, Feldeisen’s past caught up with him. While working at the Four Seasons in New York, he started experiencing panic attacks, which led to him quitting his job. He was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
After hearing about the local organization Growing Veterans, which tackles isolation of veterans by working to help them reintegrate into society through farming, Feldeisen wanted to help out. In 2016, Feldeisen and the resort collaborated with the organization to hold a fundraising auction and dinner, raising $10,000 in one night. He hopes to hold the event again this year.
“We should help. If I can do my little to help save one life, it’s good,” Feldeisen said. “If I can be a little help for one person, even for five minutes, it’s good. And if everybody can do the same then if you have all the minutes, all the little help, then it’s a big help. I think as a community we can help better. And it’s hopefully this little act of kindness that will help us both.”
Outside his work with Growing Veterans, Feldeisen has given speeches and raised money for mental health services. He also teaches homeless children in Vancouver cooking skills.
Feldeisen is responsible for overseeing banquet and catering operations and daily culinary operations at Packers Oyster Bar and Pierside Kitchen, as well as the Great Blue Heron Grill and Loomis Trail Bar & Grille.