Remembering Owen Thomas Lightly


His flashing eyes and quick and dry humour, his humbling presence and unassuming way: he was one of those humans you just wanted to be around. 

Owen was raised by family and community of Gabriola Island, located on the West coast of BC.  A mentor and neighbour of his recorded these pieces in memory of Owen. For those who know, know: growing up on a small gulf island of BC is a unique, challenging, beautiful, dark, and light experience. Owen emerged from Gabriola as young man hungry for adventure, developing deep sense of perspective with a sensitive gulf island heart. 

He came of age in Nanaimo BC, and at the age of 20, started working towards establishing himself in his career as a Vancouver chef. Many stories then to follow of sweat, tears, kitchen culture, songwriting, beach guitar, fine dining, writing, staff meals, heartbreaks, testing the waters, and diving in. By the age of 30, not only was he known as a local writer and up-and-coming chef, he was also known as a loyal friend and deeply creative role model. He met many wonderful, like-minded people and his community was growing. His journey was still just beginning when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 31.

Owen passed away on May 29th, 2014, two days before his 32nd birthday. The family and community around him continue to remember his sweet smile, his passion, and all the little things that are distinctly "him" by listening to his music and/or music that he loved, cooking his recipes and eating the food he would have loved. He continues to inspire us to take time to enjoy the good things in life. His motto: choose joy.

Here is a piece I recorded soon after he passed away. I wasn't able to speak at his celebration of life gathering - it was much too hard for me to do so. But I offer it in order to share a small piece of vulnerability with you. Owen is dearly missed. 



BOTE in the beginning    

Butter on the Endive started out as a gritty food blog with Owen Lightly being the main contributing editor and cooking school friend Mark Roberts as the photographer. The duo went on cooking adventures of all sorts, from dumpy Gabriola backyard bbqs, to sitting down at high end chef's tables with wine pairings, to adventuring to their favourite suppliers' fishing or farming grounds, to interviewing industry faces, including dishwashers, servers, chefs, and other food writers. Owen had a flair for writing, and "Butter on the Endive" became a thing all of it's own, not just kitchen slang for a when a beautiful woman walks into the dining room. His posts would explore the industry of food and dining with "a cook's cook" eye for detail, genuine curiousity for all aspects of food culture, and a dry humour. He often embedded links to songs in the text, creating layer after layer of curated engaging material.   


 BOTE as food events company  

Butter on the Endive gained a fairly good following, and many food industry folks supported Owen's efforts to further food culture in Vancouver. It was a natural shift when Owen and Naomi decided to focus more on food events and food experiences open to the public. They would dream up ideas, and some would stick: a take-over of an old cafe in an industrial district of Main Street and do a New Orleans- themed dinner, Chef in Residence dinner series cooking in rented apartments or spaces collaborating with antique furnishings companies, or collaborating with like-minded chefs and bartenders in a fully operating wood-working shop. The possibilities seemed endless, and Owen and Naomi worked well as a team. One of the ones that Owen never got to do was fulfill his contract to be the overseeing chef for an art restoration and cultural immersion program in Puglia, Italy. He was diagnosed with cancer two months before going. As we look back at Butter on the Endive, we remember the wellspring of passion he had to share his love for food culture. He embodied a strong work ethic, embraced light-heartedness, and valued the relationships and people he worked with, above all. 

[more pictures to come]


Making Caponata
recipe by Owen, 2012

Manila Clam Digging
Gwen (sister) & Owen, 2009 

Braising Octopus
Chef in Residence dinner series, 2012

Tortellini en brodo, Butter on the Endive video, shot by Michael Sider, 2011

A place to share memory with you

My name is Naomi Horii; I was Owen Lightly's last partner in life and in work. Butter on the Endive was a blog as its first incarnation, and in its second, Owen and I developed a food events and catering company. We were planning its third incarnation: Butter on the Endive would grow to be an umbrella for a brick and mortar restaurant, and many more projects. When Owen was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 31, all efforts to curate life up until that point seemed lost, and living strictly to get through each day was paramount. Butter on the Endive, as a business, ended, as all operations and future planning ceased. After Owen passed away, I needed to find a way to honour the efforts he put into the art of living. 

 I put together this site in order to share the projects that grew out of a desire to honour who he was through the gifts that Owen has left us: his music, and his love for cooking. Going through the kind of loss that feels like everything he and I built together was taken away does a number on a heart. Not a day goes by without Owen in the forefront of my mind, and so channelling my efforts here to share with you helps me heal.  Even though his absence is heavy, I sincerely hope that by putting on the vinyl and cooking some of his recipes, you too can connect with the lightness of his presence and continue to be inspired by Owen Lightly into the future. May he know that he is loved.