FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A Fort St. John restaurant is among five BC businesses close to bringing home a small business award.

Audielicious Restaurant, owned and established by Audie Louie Banania in 2019, is known for its eclectic menu, community spirit, and being a potential award-winning business. The restaurant is one of five finalists for the Best Award at the Small Business BC Awards taking place in May.

The award recognizes outstanding new Canadians, who after immigrating, have created successful small businesses while demonstrating leadership and breaking down barriers.

Banania was speechless after finding out he was shortlisted for the award, an achievement he didn’t expect.

“Being nominated is an honour already.  I didn’t expect to be in the top 10 or top five. It’s really overwhelming,” says Banania.

The former Singapore chef’s love of cooking wasn’t as strong as the love for his now wife, who he moved to Fort St. John for in 2013.

“I was a well-paid chef there. It was hard for me to give up and eat my pride. Most people told me that I’m crazy. Because of love, I give up everything for my wife now. But I’m not regretting anything.”

Banania is dedicated to his wife, his cooking and supporting the community. The restaurant is consistently accepting donations for local non-profits or people in need, and started a small food bank at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I didn’t have anything, I’m from a really poor family. I struggled much, that’s why I strive to be successful. Lots of things happened during my childhood. I went without food for days, weeks and, sometimes, months.”

“Now that I have something here,  I try to help out as much as I can, because there’s people that need help. Because I myself experienced that before, nobody helping us.”

The other finalists include, Charcuterie Vancouver in Vancouver, Artemex Mexican Handcrafts in West Kelowna, Kleiner Services Inc. in Vancouver , and Soul Bite Food in Coquitlam.

“This is a terrific opportunity to celebrate the province’s hard-working small business owners,” saysRavi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “Their success and innovation is inspirational. I congratulate all of the nominees for their hard work – they deserve the recognition. They also deserve our gratitude for the contribution they make to communities throughout B.C.”

As a Top 5 Finalist, nominees will be requested to present a 10-minute pitch about their business to a judging panel virtually via Zoom. The independent judging panel will decide which one of the Top 5 finalists will be this year’s winner.

A total of 937 award nominations were received, representing 558 small businesses in 88 communities across BC for this year’s awards.

The 18th Annual SBBC Awards are taking place virtually from May 4th to May 6th.