By Brittany Tiplady
Just off of the Trans-Canada highway, nestled into the heart of Langley, is a little cafe with a big vision. The space is simple and humble: white accents and lofty ceilings with exquisite art adorning the walls. On a Friday afternoon The Water Shed Arts Cafe is buzzing with customers, “it’s a busy day!” I note to Jenn Cornish, chef owner and operator. “Oh, this is nothing!” she says. “It gets really busy here.”
The Water Shed Arts cafe may seem like a typical suburban haunt to the untrained eye, but that’s far from the truth. Cornish has created a safe haven; The Water Shed mandate is “to set the table for humanity where everyone is loved, welcomed, nourished and celebrated,” and that’s exactly what she does. The menu is generous, chock-full of locally sourced ingredients and hearty whole foods that cater to all tastes and dietary needs. There is a vegetarian focus, but the options are not restricted to only herbivores and gluten-free options are available upon request.
The aforementioned art on the Water Shed walls are all for sale, with new work and new artists rotating every few months. This concept drives back to Cornish’s mandate for inclusivity and community involvement. The space is also available for event rentals in the evenings, and Cornish generously offers customizable catering, private dining, open mic nights, and art show openings at Water Shed as well.
I enjoyed lunch with Chef Cornish on that busy Friday afternoon-I devoured the grilled turkey and havarti sandwich (a hearty slice of turkey breast with artichoke spread, red peppers, spinach on cranberry bread) and bowl of the featured pumpkin soup (nourishing and savory), while she munched away on a gluten-free tofu burrito. We got deeper into the ethos behind Water Shed, her concept behind the food, and her inspiration for opening the bustling Langley bistro.
BT: Let’s talk more about your vision and mandate.
Jenn Cornish: We are a place that nourishes people in every possible way. And part of that is seeing people and knowing them, and knowing who they really are. This is a safe place, and a judgement free zone where people can connect and be themselves, and enjoy a place where they are able to connect with other people
Part of that is done with our visual arts display, as well as musicians that come and play here. But we also hold that mandate for every customer that comes through the door. Everyone has something that they offer to the world and we see that.
BT: What gave you the inspiration to open up a spot like this?
Jenn Cornish: My partner is a very creative and artistic person and that was a huge inspiration, and I am too – my palette is just food. I was in health care for over 15 years, so when I decided to get out of that field, I ended up falling into this opportunity of opening a cafe. I realized within the first few months that this cafe brings together every aspect of who I am.
BT: Is there a theme or concept for the food?
Jenn Cornish: There isn’t necessarily a theme, but everything is made with real, whole food, and completely from scratch. We want people to know exactly what is in their food, and that’s something that’s really important to me. I have an autoimmune disease, and how I’ve managed it is through food. So it’s important to me to offer food to people that they can trust.
BT: I know you offer catering services, and open up the space in the evenings for events. What else does Water Shed offer after hours?
Jenn Cornish: We do community feasts as well. So I pick a theme and make a meal, sometimes it’s family style, sometimes it’s plated, and we sell tickets for the night at different price points depending on the courses and the style. It’s a really fun long table feast.
BT: I love how balanced your menu to accommodate everyone.
Jenn Cornish: It’s really important to me to be mindful of being responsible when thinking about the world around us, and being aware of who we share the planet with. We have a lot of gluten-free options and vegan options, and if you look at our menu, it’s definitely veggie centric but we don’t exclude. We just try to make as little negative impact on the environment as possible. There’s been a lot of education, and we want to have a menu that is accessible to everyone, so no matter who you are and where you are in your diet spectrum, you can eat here.
The Water Shed Arts Cafe
#11 20349 88th Ave, Langley
Visit watershedartscafe.com to check out further information on events and catering.