By Brittany Tiplady
If there’s one thing you can expect from Jan’s on the Beach it truly is great food, made from scratch.
Janet Wait, owner and operator of her namesake restaurant, may be a bustling chef and business woman but her story is as heartwarming as it gets and she’s never too busy to sit and have a chat.
In 2006, Wait said goodbye to her 20-year career as a real estate agent in the Delta and went after her longtime dream of becoming a chef.
“I was a realtor for 20 years. Our son was doing career planning in grade nine, and he asked me what I wanted to be growing up. I told him that I always wanted to be a chef but life happens. I got married and put my [husband] through university and then started as a realtor after we bought our first house.
And then, 20 years later, it was time for me to go to school and make a change. My son was the one that encouraged me that day,” says Wait.
In 2006, Wait followed her passion and attended culinary school at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts on Granville Island. In 2006, after finishing her training, she started “Jan’s Gourmet”—her own catering business based in Delta, and began an apprenticeship under John Garrett at Horizons Restaurant on Burnaby Mountain, later completing her Red Seal as well.
“When my [catering] business really got going we started looking for somewhere for me to cater out of, and also do breakfast and lunch. We saw that our current place was up for sale, and once we looked at the view, there was no way we couldn’t do it. So, there were four months of renovations and a ton of work, and then Jan’s On the Beach opened,” Wait explains.
Today, Jan’s on the Beach is a popular spot, still located in the same building on the iconic White Rock strip, overlooking the San Juan Islands. The menu is described as “seafood and more,” offering fresh and unique dishes often lovingly made by Wait herself.
“I am still working in the kitchen!” she says. “I still love to cook. But we’ve also got a really good team, which helps and it allows me to do some catering on the side as well.”
You can find plenty of regulars returning to Jan’s time and time again, but their fresh menu additions are helping attract a new crowd. Jan’s now offers plenty of gluten-free dishes, including their renowned gluten-free fish and chips.
“At the end of March [for example, we got] halibut in. We get the full halibut, we filet it ourselves, and we try to do a special daily if we can, like a pistachio crusted halibut with a lemon risotto and fresh vegetables from Arocha farms in Surrey,” she adds.
As a former realtor and lover of good conversation, Wait continues to be an energetic and supportive member of the community and her efforts have not gone unrecognized. In 2017, Wait was awarded Business Person of the Year in the self-owned category by the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce.
“That award was a real honour and a real surprise. I’ve always wanted to be more involved in [the community], so one of the first things I did was join the BIA, and the Chamber of Commerce and all of those things. As a former realtor, I still love to visit and talk and network. I’m all about lending a helping hand—it’s not just about me, it’s about all the restaurants on the beach. It’s a destination spot. There’s so many places to choose from along the beach, so I love helping everybody receive support [and more business],” she says.
Speaking with Wait is both refreshing and energizing. Her enthusiasm and zest for life, for food, and for her work is as good as it gets. As our interview came to a close, I ask her: “What’s your favourite part of coming to work, and what advice to do you have for someone eager to follow their own career dreams?
“The view at Jan’s on the Beach is amazing, and I love the customers that come in, I love to talk! Every day at some point, I look out at the water and think: ‘I am so lucky to be here.’”
“As for advice, just do it. Definitely do it. It’s like jumping out of an airplane. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s the best thing to have followed your passion and follow your dreams.”
Jan’s on the Beach (14989 Marine Dr, White Rock) is open Wednesday-Sunday during the fall and winter, and seven days a week during the summer. Look out for their monthly pairing dinners! In June, Jan’s will be hosting a Quail’s Gate wine pairing dinner, as well as a beer pairing dinner featuring brews from local brewery, White Rock Beach Beer.