As we celebrate the Best of Vancouver, we asked a few of our favourite chefs and restaurateurs about what current crazes they think really deserve to last.
“I want to live by a waste-never philosophy when it comes to my food,” says Ned Bell, whose résumé just keeps getting longer; the Ocean Wise ambassador is the newly named culinary director of the Vancouver Club and will be competing on the forthcoming Iron Chef Canada. “Everything is usable. We’re so used to beauty and perfection that we forget ugly can be delicious too.
“Make carrot-top pesto. Use the beet greens. Use the oil in the jar of sun-dried tomatoes to flavour a dish,” he says. “It’s really about looking at everything in your fridge as potentially something tasty. Banana bread was born out of overripe bananas.”
He’s also a fan of adopting alternative sources of protein. Beef is one of the best sources, but with greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption, its production has an extremely negative impact on the environment. Legumes and certain nuts and seeds are high in the vital nutrient, but insects like crickets are becoming more commonly accepted sources in the western world.
“We need alternative, sustainable, ethical sources of protein,” Bell says.
“Support the local farmers and businesses,” Chen says. “Nowadays, more chefs will go to farmers markets to pick up their ingredients and to connect with the suppliers. At the same time, we’re educating ourselves and our staff about when exactly seasonal ingredients start and end.”
One ingredient, multiple methods
Top chefs also like using single ingredients in multiple creative ways and serving them together. You’ve probably seen something like this on menus: “beets three ways” or “coconut five ways”.
It’s an increasingly popular approach that requires thinking beyond the standard uses of a particular food to showcase its versatility as well as a chef’s creativity and to keep things exciting. Take pumpkin as an example. There’s a good chance pumpkin pie was the first thing to come to mind for what to do with it.
“At Torafuku, we made our version of a pumpkin spice latte using mascarpone vanilla Mont Blanc, pumpkin glaze, maple coffee sablé, pumpkin and cinnamon mousse—cooking pumpkin with different methods,” Chen says. “When all the components are eaten together, it tastes just like a pumpkin spice latte. Cook the food in many different ways, plate it on the same plate, and let the ingredient do the magic.”
Counter service, please
Also embrace counter service. You’ve seen the success of places like Tractor and Field & Social: you order your food at a counter but it’s delivered to you by staff who are also happy to clear dishes and refill water glasses. It’s a style that the team behind Savio Volpe and Pepino’s is adopting right next door to the latter at its forthcoming Caffe La Tana, which is expected to open on October 9. The Roman-style café will have all sorts of sandwiches, pastas, pastries, coffee, and more, as well as a retail/grocery section.
“What’s trending are cafeteria-style restaurants, where people are going to go to the counter to order, then sit down and be served,” says co-owner Paul Grunberg. “With the debilitating Canadian labour-market shortage, there’s going to be more of this—cafeteria-style restaurants where the quality and execution are not sacrificed but that’s not as formalized an experience as sitting down and having someone come and offer you still or sparkling water, and hopefully that will be reflected in the price point.”