When Marie-Eve and Alexis Galus returned to B.C. after travelling the world, the Whistler they found was not the Whistler they had left three years earlier.
Determined to find the lifestyle they loved again, their research led them to Smithers.
They packed their bags for a weekend trip and drove to Smithers. It was love at first sight.
“We heard stories about here and we opened the map and it was ticking all the boxes we love like camping, fishing, skiing, mountain biking, the weather seems to be good, better than Terrace, and that was a powder year here, in 2015,” Marie said.
Alexis said, it was a love for travel that brought him to Canada from Dunkerque (Dunkirk), France. He loved the country and set about trying to get a visa and residency in Montreal. It was there he met Marie, but he didn’t want to stay in Quebec.
“When I moved to Montreal, there was no mountains, so I have to move to the west coast to see the mountains,” Alexis said.
Marie was game.
“We met and four months later, I packed everything and sold everything and followed him,” Marie said.
Marie is a sommelier and hospitality manager and Alexis is a Michelin Star chef. But while both have worked in hospitality since they moved to the valley (they ran the Eddyline Bistro Café for a year) they found plying those trades full-time was not working out.
“We really like it here and we want to stay here, so we have to decide to change our job,” Alexis said.
When Marie was pregnant with their son Soren Galus, she went back to school to become an insurance adjuster, a job she has now been doing for two years.
When COVID hit in 2020 and Alexis could no longer work as a chef, he enrolled himself in the Work BC program for self-employment exploring various options. He thought about trying to open another restaurant, but decided that was just too risky.
With his culinary background, though, and the pandemic-inspired focus on local food security, he settled on growing food.
Smithereens Mushroom was born.
For years, the couple had already been growing mushrooms for medicinal purposes because Marie has a family history of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
“When my dad got sick in 2010, that was a little bit of a trigger for me because we’re four kids and I have at least a 25 per cent chance to have the disease,” she explained.
The couple started looking for ways to prevent or stave off the advancement of the disease. They discovered Lion’s Mane mushrooms. These gourmet mushrooms are a beautiful, white, shaggy-looking fungus that grows on hardwoods throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and is said to improve cognitive function and speed up recovery from nerve damage.
Studies in both mice and people have shown promising, although not conclusive, results for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s.
Alexis and Marie started growing Lion’s Mane and producing a tincture for Marie’s personal use. It felt like a natural progression to build a business from that.
Smithereens Mushroom had planned on being in full production by now with the goal of supplying the market from Prince George to Prince Rupert with a variety of fresh, gourmet mushrooms and other products including dried mushroom and spices seasoning packages, mushroom jerky, and extracts of Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Cordyceps mushrooms.
Reishis are touted as an anti-inflammatory and are said to boost the immune system.
Cordyceps are popular among athletes because they claim to improve performance by boosting ATP production (an organic compound cells use for energy) and improving oxygen uptake in blood.
But like most other things in pandemic times those plans have gotten pushed back a bit. The jerky and medicinal supplements are currently awaiting approval by health authorities and the shipping containers they are converting into growing and storage facilities and a lab are not quite ready yet. Over the next several weeks, they expect that work to be completed with full production slated for sometime in the fall.
In the meantime, Smithereens Mushroom can be found at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings selling fresh Lion’s Mane and Oyster mushrooms, seasoning packs and providing education on the possible medicinal benefits of mushrooms.
Quite aside from those potential properties, however, the fresh mushrooms are delicious and packed with nutritional value.
A 100g serving of Lion’s Mane contains 35 calories with 7 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein plus potassium and iron.
Oyster mushrooms contain 28 calories, 5g carbs, 3g protein plus niacin, vitamin B5, folate, potassium, choline, iron, phosphorus and zinc in a 100 gram serving.
The mushrooms are grown in a sterile environment on an organic substrate that is recycled into compost. In fact, every aspect of the business is designed to create no waste even down to construction materials made of recycled plastic being used to convert the shipping containers.