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Rethinking outdoor cooking

While barbecuing is a quintessential summer activity it isn't normally associated with the fall and winter months.

North Vancouver couple Anthony and Sofie Wotton hope to change that way of thinking. Together they run Urban Ovens, a North Vancouver-based business that specializes in creating outdoor wood-fired ovens. It is a business venture that Anthony Wotton believes will help extend the patio life of North Shore residents.

"You can extend your deck life with outdoor ovens," he said.

"So if it's 10 degrees outside why not go out and start a fire and cook some food? People spend so much money on their deck or on their outdoor area, so why not be able to enjoy it a little longer?"

Ten years ago Wotton was a chef in Australia. He decided to start building wood fire ovens, and after spending a few years perfecting his craft the concept turned into a business.

"We started making them and then people just kept on asking for them," he said. "We kept making them and it just kind of snowballed from there."

The Wottons moved to North Vancouver three years ago.

One year later they started Urban Ovens. The company is a two-part business. They specialize in installing and creating custom wood-fired ovens for clients, and they also operate a moveable outdoor oven food cart.

"We build our ovens on site," said Wotton. "Everything is totally custom built and that is what sets us a part from any other company you see out there. With other (companies) you have to ship in from either the U.S. or Europe. We are the only Canadian-based company that are totally built in Canada."

While the company has found success on the North Shore, Wotton said that further education is required for people to really see the benefit of cooking with an outdoor oven.

"We have to educate people on what they are and how they can benefit their life style, their kids and their home life," he said. "We find the concept sways people to the old ways of cooking, family time and people eating from their garden. It can be an organic process straight from the garden and into the wood fire oven, which is really nice."

Wood fire ovens have gained fame recently through promotion by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jamie Oliver. Though Wotton hasn't dealt with either directly, he is pleased with their support.

"They are good positive role models, and we are happy that these kinds of highprofile people are into it," he said. "It helps make it cool, and if being cool is being healthy and happy and doing things with your family while spending time cooking good food then that's a good thing."

Urban Oven's moveable food cart specializes in pizzas but Wotton said that items such as roast lamb, roast veggies, pies, smoked fish and fresh bread are all ideal for outdoor ovens.

One concern residents may have is the North Shore's unpredictable and rainy weather. Wotton said potential customers shouldn't worry.

"These ovens can be built under a pergola, or we can make a stand-alone that has a little roof over it and that can have an awning over it," he said. "The big thing is that if anybody is worried about that we can address those issues and we are quite happy to do that. That's why we do custom, we like to fit into peoples homes and how they live."

Urban Ovens food cart is at Shipbuilders Plaza every Friday night for the North Shore Green Market. For further information visit or email the Wotton's at [email protected].

DRAKE FENTON, [email protected]