DINER | Jack Evrensel Sells West, CinCin, Blue Water Cafe, Thierry, Araxi To Aquilinis


by Andrew Morrison | There have been rumblings about this for several months, but today it’s official. As of this morning, the Aquilini Group is now in full possession of Toptable, the collection of eateries developed over the past 33 years by legendary Vancouver restaurateur Jack Evrensel. The official announcement will be released to the media this afternoon.

Evrensel opened some of the most successful and impactful eateries we’ve ever had. These included them Araxi (Whistler) in 1981, CinCin in 1990, Blue Water Cafe and West in 2000 (two months apart), and Thierry in 2011. Many of Vancouver’s top bartenders, servers, sommeliers, managers, and chefs honed their skills under the Toptable umbrella – so many that they’re hard to count. And the staff they currently have on payroll are some of the best in the business.

“Our team has never been stronger nor this rich in talent,” Evrensel is quoted as saying in the official news release that is coming out this afternoon. He attributes this to the commitment and passion of the company’s “award-winning chefs, renowned restaurant and wine directors, and dedicated employees,” but at least some of the credit needs to be pointed his way. I’ve seen perhaps one of two restaurateurs in my life who are as dedicated to the higher standards of hospitality. What has set Jack apart, however, has been his penchant for managing from the background. There’s never been any personal glory-basking or attention-seeking. In all the years that I’ve been reporting on restaurants, I’ve managed to take his photo just once, at an Araxi long table supper on Pemberton’s North Arm Farm several years ago (see above). I remember him shifting his weight to one leg and tilting his head as if to say, “Aw, c’mon” like a little kid. I trust that he’s doing that right now as he reads this.

Evrensel will stay for the next three months in a consulting role to help manage the transition, and operations will continue as normal. On the phone yesterday, he couldn’t tell me what he was going to do after that. “I really don’t know. I’ve never really had a five year plan. I go with the flow. I’m at peace. I don’t know the future, and that’s the way I like it.”

I don’t expect the Aquilini Group – a real estate, development, renewable energy, sports, and entertainment behemoth - will mess around with a good thing. The managers currently in place at every Toptable property are at the top of their game, so the maintenance of the status quo sounds ideal.

All I know for certain is that Jack deserves a round of applause, not only for a long career of excellence, but also for finding and locking down the one deep-pocketed buyer who could afford to take his considerable life’s work off his hands.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

18 Responses to “DINER | Jack Evrensel Sells West, CinCin, Blue Water Cafe, Thierry, Araxi To Aquilinis”

  1. Doug on March 18th, 2014 10:51 am

    I’ve heard Araxi is going to become a Cactus Club.

  2. Boomboom on March 18th, 2014 11:10 am

    “I don’t expect the Aquilini Group … will mess around with a good thing”
    Uhhhhhhh …

  3. Bob Dobalina on March 18th, 2014 11:29 am

    Had know idea all of those were under the same group. Thierry and Blue Water being particular favourites of mine. Congrats to Evrensel and hope to see him in the business again soon.

  4. Mark Taylor on March 18th, 2014 11:54 am

    Insert Canucks joke [here]

  5. Scout Magazine on March 18th, 2014 11:58 am

    “Two Sedins walk into a bar, Wolowidnyk looks up and says…”

  6. Tom D on March 18th, 2014 12:02 pm

    Jack, I never worked with you but you definitely inspired me as a great restaurateur whose passion for food and wine was (is) untouchable. Best of luck in the future.

  7. Sean Sherwood on March 18th, 2014 2:01 pm

    This just in, Wolowidnyk traded to New York for 3 rounds and a server to be named later.

  8. Mike Mitchell on March 18th, 2014 2:38 pm

    Congrats Jack! Enjoy whatever you do next, and I hope it’s relaxation.
    Truly one of the best our industry has ever seen. A mentor that I am proud to say I had the privilege to work for.

  9. briun2000 on March 18th, 2014 3:12 pm

    Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.

  10. Cellarmaster on March 18th, 2014 3:52 pm

    With Aramark gone does this mean we will see some Blue Water sushi at Canucks home games?

  11. geoff on March 18th, 2014 5:25 pm

    Jack, you made the best choice of your life!!!
    What will happen in a few weeks, months or years don’t matter!!!
    Will they mess with your beautiful achievement? Who knows!!

    Enjoy your freedom and retirement…

    Only regret I have: I didn’t have the opportunity to work for you!!!

  12. Phil on March 18th, 2014 6:31 pm

    Well deserved for a legend in the restaurant industry. Working with top table and under Jack was a pleasure and what he has built in this city is incredible. Best of luck on all future endeavours and if it’s another restaurant, I know it will be a hit

  13. Brian L on March 19th, 2014 12:54 am

    What a run. I had the privilege of working for you at both Araxi and Cin Cin. You inspired me to be better at my craft and take pride in the job. You will be missed greatly.

  14. Bob PARROTTA on March 19th, 2014 8:49 am

    Congratulations Jack, time to enjoy la vita dolce! You deserve it.
    I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity opportunity to work with such a brilliant person. Thank you!

  15. How about them Canucks! - Page 238 on March 19th, 2014 11:01 am

    [...] now Big News-Aquilini the Canuck owners just bought a bunch of high end restaurants Now there's finally an opening for the soon-to-be-unemployed duo of Gillis & Tortorella-Gillis [...]

  16. BigFish on March 19th, 2014 1:42 pm

    Oh No! Really!!!!!!!!
    A perfect recipe for a D_______ ? Fill in the blanks yourself. Everything they touch ends up screwing the little guy to get what they want. Read the papers folks.

    Good luck Jack all the best!

  17. Cherie Bokis on March 19th, 2014 8:35 pm

    Loved working with you!congrats on your sale, now you can come and visit me in the Okanagan. The Blind Angler Grill!

  18. Catia on March 22nd, 2014 4:07 pm

    Good luck to you Jack, you can now relax and travel without worrying about business.
    I’m sure your staff will dearly miss working for you.