The Thursday Q&A with Whalesbone owner Josh Bishop
A world-traveler — he’s hopped from India to Australia to Nepal — this restaurant owner has seen it all. In fact, the owner of The Whalesbone Oyster House got into sustainable travel when he worked on a fishing boat near Australia for two weeks and watched sharks being finned. He has about a dozen nicknames for his staff, and busts out in song when something happens nearby. When a customer falls off a barstool accidentally, for example, Bishop booms out “slip, trip, cut your lip?” He answered Style intern Katia Dmitrieva’s many questions.
Ottawa Citizen Style: Favourite food?
JB: I like food in general. I don’t have a favourite food, I don’t have a favourite show, I don’t have a favourite hockey player…I’m the type of person who goes into a restaurant and say “can you just feed us?” I’m not so focused on a favourite food. Sweets, desserts are my favourite. I also love milk chocolate. It’s a bit of a situation because, at any time, I have five-litre pails of chocolate and being the owner, there’s no one there to say “(get) out of the chocolate!”
OCS: Wine or beer or both?
JB: Both. I don’t really discriminate with wine. For beer, I don’t like darks. I like Beau’s. I like to support locals. I have a pretty forgiving palette.
OCS: Who would you invite for dinner if you could choose anyone in the world?
JB: Family and friends, of course. I’m not keen to spend such quality intimate time with strangers.
OCS: Fine dining or plain old diners?
JB: Plain old diners. Mellos diner is good. We go there every mother’s day. My gran has fried bologna, well done. Sausage split and burnt and eggs over well. I love the late-night hangouts, the greasy.
OCS: Who are your style icons?
JB: I don’t have one particular person. I can tell you my style. It’s like this place. It’s rustic, nostalgic, a little bit of hill-billy, a little bit of funky.
OCS: Best fashion find?
JB: Red and white checkered tablecloth pattern but pearl snap buttons, white cowbell screen-print on the back. At Ragtime (Vintage Clothing).
OCS: Mac or PC?
OCS: Most oft-played song on your iPod or MP3 player?
JB: Country and blues and funk
OCS: Your biggest fashion faux-pas, when, where and how?
JB: Kinda Monday to Friday. Sometimes I wake up and the lumber jacket just doesn’t quite feel right. But I look great on the weekend.
OCS: Favourite piece of furniture?
JB: The wicker love seat at my cottage.
OCS: Best home accessory
JB:My record collection, or my turntable.
OCS: What’s on your bedside table?
JB: Business books. Driven by Robert Herjavec from the Dragons’ Den. I usually read non-fiction biographies.
OCS: And best book you’ve read in the past year?
JB: Probably Warren Buffet’s biography. I’ve read it a few times this year.
OCS: Favourite visual artist, living or dead:
JB: Daniel Wakeman. We have some books illustrated by him. Liam (his son) loves them.
OCS: Best restaurant in Ottawa
JB: Can’t really say my favourite- I love a lot of them. I’ve been finding myself going to Back Lane a lot lately.
OCS: What’s your earliest memory?
JB: One of my earliest memories I was three years old. One day, my dad brought home a backhoe because, at that time, he was doing snow removal. And also they had a brown car. My mom ran back into the house to grab something. I was sitting in the car, it was running, and I put it in reverse, then put it back. The car moved down the hill. She came out of the house right when it started moving.
OCS: What’s your proudest moment?
JB: Children being born, wedding. We had our wedding in a farmhouse, it was east of Manotick. We got married in a barn We had tents set up. Our immediate family and such were in the barn. There were about 350 people there. We had sausages and homemade hamburgers. All of our friends helped expedite it, it was a buffet. That was a proud moment. Just hosting all those friends. A couple years ago, I won restauranteur of the year. It was proud in the sense that you don’t get a lot of opportunities to thank people in such a grandiose way.
OCS: Qualities you most admire in a person?
JB:Honesty and hard work and just to be genuine. To say hi to me here but in a different atmosphere…I like handshakes. When you’re in a business like this, you rely on lots of trades, right? Plumbers and such. I don’t do the “I’m going to count down the price to the last penny.” I’ll treat you fairly. And I expect you to treat me fairly.
OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?
JB: Neither. I don’t have that kind of time. I just don’t make time for it.
OCS: Favourite place to spend time?
JB: Whalesbone. But nothing’s more important to me than family. I’d drop everything for the kids.
OCS: Fave blog or website:
OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?
JB: I don’t have one. Probably chocolate. But I don’t really feel guilty. Then there’s foie gras. Yeah, that’s my guilty pleasure.
OCS: Describe a perfect day off (it can be anywhere in the world):
JB: The day before holidays. It feels like you’re just about to quit a job. It’s a good day. The family’s going to Costa Rica soon. I like watching cartoons with the kids, then wrestling with the kids.
OCS: Person, place or thing that makes you proudest/happiest that you live in Ottawa?
JB: The Rideau River. It’s the gateway to the world. You can go anywhere in the world. Right there. The Rideau River.
OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?
JB: For my pound of flesh; for my contribution, from a professional standpoint, to the industry. As a bar setter, an educator, contributions to the community. And for being loyal to family and friends.