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Cooking Canadian

Together at SoBo

More Recipes and Stories from Tofino's Beloved Restaurant

by (author) Lisa Ahier

with Susan Musgrave

foreword by Lynn Crawford

Random House Canada
Initial publish date
May 2023
Canadian, Northwestern States, Individual Chefs & Restaurants
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price

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One of Chatelaine's best cookbooks of 2023!
Welcome back to Tofino! In this long-awaited follow-up to the award-winning bestseller, The SoBo Cookbook, you’ll find a whole new set of recipes, dialed up in delicious, unmistakable SoBo style.

To know Tofino is to know SoBo, the restaurant at the heart of this magnetic West Coast surf town. Since opening as a purple food truck 20 years ago, SoBo (short for “sophisticated bohemian”) has been bringing people together with Chef Lisa Ahier’s fresh West Coast fare. Year after year, locals and visitors alike return for her killer cooking and the relaxed warmth that can only be found here. Bring home this new slice of SoBo to share with your loved ones.
In Together at SoBo, Chef Lisa Ahier shares all-new recipes from her beloved restaurant. Lisa’s recipes are love letters to Tofino and its position as the most westerly point of Canada. Drawing from local produce and a wealth of seafood, these are Pacific Northwest recipes enhanced by Lisa’s Southern flair.

  • Local and seasonal: recipes like the Chanterelle and Corn Chowder and the Nettle, Clam and Shrimp Tagliatelle highlight Tofino’s coastal bounty
  • Classics inspired by Lisa’s Southern childhood: reminisce with her family's Summer Ratatouille and Grilled Peach and Raspberry Melba recipes
  • Seafood standouts: embrace the ocean with the Chinook Salmon with Parsnip Puffs and the Halibut Cheeks with Celeriac Cream
  • Perennial SoBo favorites: try the beloved Roasted Acorn Squash and Kale Pizza and White Bean and Chicken Chili

And, in true, community-driven SoBo spirit, throughout the book, Lisa also introduces the people around her who have shaped the restaurant into the quintessential destination it is today.
Two decades on from its purple food truck beginnings, SoBo has never lost its namesake “sophisticated bohemian” essence: down-to-earth goodness forged through a connection to the people and place—land and sea—surrounding it.

About the authors

Lisa Ahier's profile page

Susan Musgrave has been labelled everything from eco-feminist to anti-feminist, from stand-up comedian to poet of doom and gloom, from social and political commentator to wild sea-witch of Canada's northwest coast. Her career as a social misfit began when she was kicked out of kindergarten class for laughing, and sent to the library to contemplate her heinous crime while seated on the “Thinking Chair”. She understood, then, that books and thinking must be considered dangerous, and they became her favourite forms of escape. Not long afterwards she dropped out of kindergarten for good. In Grade 8 she won her first poetry competition, with a poem about Jackie Kennedy visiting her husband's grave by moonlight in rhyming couplets. Her prize was a copy of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. At 14, Susan Musgrave dropped out of high school and ran away from home to gain life experience. She got as far as the railway tracks in Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island, where she wrote poetry about cigarettes drowning in cold cups of coffee, and on the eternal shortness of existence. Next we have the missing years (months, actually). Committed to the local psychiatric ward, assigned to Room 0, she met most of the University of Victoria's English Department. While she was plotting her eventual escape from the mental hospital, the poet Robin Skelton came to visit her. “You're not mad,” he said, after reading her poetry, “you're a poet.” She and an older professor escaped together, and spent the next years living in Berkeley, California. Her first book of poetry was published when she was 19. Of Songs of the Sea Witch, her grandfather said, “Even Shakespeare had to write a lot of rubbish to begin with.” In 1969 she received a short term Canada Council Grant of $1500 and spent the next two years living on the remote west coast of Ireland. In 1972 she returned to Canada, to the Queen Charlotte Islands, and in 1975 married a criminal lawyer, Jeffrey Green, at St. Albans Cathedral in England. The marriage lasted four years. During the trial of five Americans and 23 Colombians accused of attempting to smuggle 30 tonnes of marijuana into Canada (her husband was one of five defence lawyers) she fell in love (from across the courtroom) with one of the accused smugglers, Paul Oscar Nelson. When he was acquitted she left with him for Mexico. They lived for two years in Colombia and Panama, until the birth of their daughter, Charlotte, in 1982. While Susan was Writer-in-Residence at the University of Waterloo, 1983-85, Paul Nelson was sentenced to four years in prison in California on a previous smuggling charge. While in prison he gave his life to the Lord, and Susan and Paul were divorced shortly afterwards. Around the same time, 1983, Susan received a manuscript from a convicted bank-robber, Stephen Reid, serving a twenty-year sentence at Millhaven Penitentiary, in Ontario. She read the manuscript, fell in love with the protagonist, and married the author on October 12, 1986, while he was still in prison. His novel, Jackrabbit Parole was released the same year. On June 1, 1987, Stephen Reid was granted full parole, and the couple moved into a seaside cottage on Vancouver Island, with a 190 foot Douglas fir tree growing through the middle of it. In 1989 their daughter Sophie was born; in 1997 Stephen burned his warrant and Susan burned her mortgage papers in a party attended by a diverse group of family, friends and writers including a Supreme Court judge and two paroled members of the Squamish Five. During their thirteen year marriage Stephen battled heroin and cocaine addiction. In 1997, the couple began building a house on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and their lives were the subject of a CBC Life and Times documentary, The Poet and the Bandit, which aired in January 1999. On June 9, 1999, after a two year clean-and-dry period that had ended roughly around the time the documentary aired, Stephen was arrested for bank robbery in Victoria, following a shootout and car chase through Beacon Hill Park. He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison on December 22, 1999. Musgrave has published over 21 fiction, poetry, children's, and non-fiction books.

Susan Musgrave's profile page

Chef LYNN CRAWFORD is a highly acclaimed celebrity chef and author of the bestselling cookbook Lynn Crawford's Pitchin' In, a Gourmand World Cookbook Award winner.

Chef Lynn has received tremendous media attention and international awards as the Executive Chef of the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto and New York City. She is one of the most high-profile chefs in the country and has been invited to cook, speak, and mentor chefs and food lovers across North America. She stars in her two-time Gemini-nominated Food Network Canada hit TV show, Pitchin' In. Chef Lynn is the chef and owner of the restaurant Ruby Watchco and food shop Ruby Eats in Toronto, where she lives.

Lynn Crawford's profile page

Excerpt: Together at SoBo: More Recipes and Stories from Tofino's Beloved Restaurant (by (author) Lisa Ahier; with Susan Musgrave; foreword by Lynn Crawford)


When I set out to write this, my second cookbook, I knew I wanted it to be a bit of a step up from my first. The SoBo Cookbook is full of tried-and-true standards—in it, you’ll find recipes for our famous tofu pockets and killer fish tacos—many going way back to when SoBo was a swinging little spot, serving out of an ’80s-era purple food truck in Tofino’s Live to Surf parking lot, where we set up in 2003.

Our truck later moved from that surf-shop parking lot to Tofino Botanical Gardens, then finally, in 2007, we settled into a spacious, floor-to-ceiling-windowed restaurant in downtown Tofino. And now, even though the purple truck has been let out to pasture, we keep a miniature homage to it in our fancy “new” digs. Throughout all this change, our essence has remained unchanged. We haven’t lost our grassroots essence—after all, “SoBo” is short for “Sophisticated Bohemian.” In this brick-and-mortar spot that we can call our own, we still offer our signature globally influenced, gourmet-level selections that fuse Asian and Southwestern standbys with the freshest local products, with menus for all mealtimes. Here, we can serve a dinner crowd looking for a night out, making the most out of our bigger kitchen to prepare complex dishes such as Warm Asparagus, Farro and King Oyster Mushroom Salad with Poached Eggs.

I first thought this second book might be inspired by the daily specials that show up on the SoBo chalkboard, often with a focus on product availability on any given day—we’re all about fresh food from here and there. And some of those certainly made it in (like the Chinook Salmon with Purée of Cauliflower and Parsnip Puffs), but as I began to write this book of recipes, something became overwhelmingly clear: as much as the product itself contributes to our great menu, it’s also undeniably the people surrounding me who have led to our experimental cooking style that locals and visitors alike have taken a shine to.

To watch a young cook’s eyes light up when asked to help create a daily special is truly wonderful. Together, like a couple learning how to dance, I work with them to set our intention, usually talking about the product, the flavor profile. I urge them to draw on their own memories of food, their culture, their passion that has brought them into the culinary arts. Then the cooking starts. All while tasting and thinking about how it might change from one moment to the next. When you involve those around you in the creations, they take ownership and really sink their teeth into the task.

Then there are the folks who have been with me since day one—whether that was day one of my moving to Tofino in 2000, or my day one on Earth.

Many of these recipes are from my childhood growing up in and around the South (for example, Fried Chicken, Southern Style, and Grilled Peach and Raspberry Melba), which I have come to know and love through my mom. The community of friends I’ve made in Tofino have all left their touch on SoBo, whether it’s in the décor, the kitchen or the supplies and ingredients we use for these excellent recipes. Even Susan, my wondrous coauthor, was brought into my life by my circle of friends one night at SoBo.

The restaurant’s appeal rests, in part, on the fact that we have created a culture that people want to immerse themselves in. SoBo is an extended family that people want to be a part of, whether they’re in the dining room or behind the scenes. It’s very much a product of its place: we have the cross-cultural, open-spirited air of the West Coast, and we foster a sense of belonging, for both regulars and visitors who are trying the restaurant for their first time. Therein lies one of the secrets of SoBo’s success. The sense of connection is important to us. We’ve always wanted that openness and rapport. It puts everyone on the same level—SoBo was built on a platform of down-to-earth, natural food meant to nourish the soul and warm the heart.

SoBo’s food is unsurpassed in flavor and adventurous in its selections. We have a strict commitment to quality, and to organic and regional sourcing. We pick and choose the best ingredients and the best growers and harvesters around. That’s deceptively simple: all of it is built on long, long (did I say long?) hours of work and a truckload of passion.

So, with this second book, I want to give a shoutout to those before, after and currently involved in my culinary journey. I want to share not only my stories but also those of people who have helped shape SoBo over the years, to show how we have come together as a like-minded community.

Lisa Ahier

Editorial Reviews

“Very few chefs are able to capture their surroundings the way Lisa does. In this beautiful cookbook, Lisa’s brilliance and skill shine through in every single page.”

“Chef Lisa Ahier and her cherished SoBo restaurant are the heart of Tofino. Her warm hospitality, positive energy and humor welcome you like an old friend. Together at SoBo captures the soul of Tofino and Chef Lisa’s love for culinary adventure. She is a rock star of the culinary world, committed to her craft, and her Fried Chicken Dinner, Southern Style is absolutely delish! This beautiful book is filled with her delicious recipes and is a must-have for anyone who wants to explore the Tofino food culture and cuisine.”

“Not only have I always been jealous of the magical restaurant Lisa owns, but now I’m jealous of this perfect cookbook she’s written. SoBo is the restaurant everyone wishes that they had on their corner and with this book we can all feel lucky to have it in our homes.”

“This cookbook is a perfect example of when love of food and craft is transported onto a plate. Chef Lisa’s generous spirit shines brightly on every page.”

“Together at SoBo, once again uses food to tell the story of a place and a community – specifically, Tofino. Expect profiles of local foragers, fishers and farmers, breathtaking photos (by Tofino photographer, Jeremy Koreski), and a writing ‘assist’ from celebrated Canadian writer and poet, Susan Musgrave. Impressive for its merits as a compilation of talent on its own, the most compelling reason to add Together at SoBo to your home library is the fact that you’ll actually use it to cook.”
Scout Magazine

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