Vancouver Celebrity Chefs
It’s no secret that talented chefs have become the new celebrities, and it makes perfect sense. With their eye for artful presentation, knowledge of exotic cuisines and willingness to search the globe for innovative ingredients, these gastronomic gurus have the ability to transform a simple meal into an overload of the senses. Get to know Vancouver’s own roster of famous chefs, who have helped turn the city into an exciting culinary destination.
With five restaurants, two cookbooks, and a line of take-home meals, Vikram Vij is a well-known personality in Vancouver. Add to this his one-season appearance on popular CBC show Dragon’s Den, and you have a celebrity chef. Born in India, Vij trained as a chef in Austria, and is also a trained sommelier. Along with his wife and co-owner, Meeru Dhalwala, Vij has taken Indian cuisine and made it seem “quintessentially Vancouver” by using local, seasonal ingredients combined with traditional spices. Their South Granville restaurant, Vij’s is one of the city’s best restaurants, hands-down; not just “best Indian restaurant.”
Rob Feenie is one of Canada’s most recognizable chefs, thanks to the five seasons of Food Network’s New Classics with Rob Feenie, and a win against Matsuhara Morimoto on Iron Chef America. But many Vancouverites know him best for his internationally-recognized fine dining restaurant, Lumiere, which was known for its fine French techniques, locally-sourced ingredients, and incorporation of international flavours. Feenie now brings that focus to Cactus Club, a Vancouver-based group of restaurants with locations throughout the city as well as in other parts of Canada. As Executive Chef, Feenie makes his elegant, globally-inspired cuisine using fresh, local ingredients accessible to all.
Okanagan-born and Vancouver-raised, Ned Bell is passionate about the region’s local ingredients, especially those from the ocean. After training in Vancouver and working under Chef Rob Feenie, Bell developed his farm-to-table philosophy while working in cities across Canada, as well as bringing his style to TV audiences via shows like Food Network’s Cook Like a Chef and CTV’s It’s Just Food. Bell leads the team at YEW seafood + bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, and has transformed the menu with his local focus. Not only has he overseen the restaurant’s support for sustainable seafood by making the menu 100 per cent Ocean Wise, he also completed a summer-long, coast-to-coast bike ride to raise awareness for sustainably-sourced seafood, holding events across Canada on his way.
Native Vancouverite David Hawksworth spent a decade perfecting his culinary craft in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe, before coming back to Vancouver to helm West Restaurant. Since then, Hawksworth has earned the position as the youngest chef inductee to the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame and served as a guest chef at New York City’s James Beard House and Masters of Food & Wine in Carmel. When Hawksworth Restaurant opened in 2011, it immediately went on to win two-consecutive “Best Restaurant” honours at the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. Since then, he’s established the Hawksworth Young Chef Scholarship Foundation. With heats in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, the competition aims to give Canada’s best young chefs a head start in their career.
Surely, you’ve heard of a California roll — you know, the ubiquitous sushi roll with cooked crabmeat, cucumber and avocado? Hidekazu Tojo, Canada’s first sushi chef, is credited for creating this East-meets- West staple in Vancouver during the early 1970s as a way to appeal to non-Japanese diners, and its popularity has made it a standard item on sushi menus throughout North America. Belly up to the sushi bar at Tojo’s eponymous restaurant on West Broadway to try his original creation and other special items from the master.
Stefan Hartmann is known as a celebrity chef not just in Vancouver, but around the world. Before coming to Vancouver in 2015, Hartmann was the owner of his eponymous restaurant in Berlin, where he was awarded the prestigious Michelin star in 2010. He now brings his art and expertise to Gastown’s Bauhaus restaurant, serving contemporary German cuisine in a modern, relaxed setting. While traditional dishes like schnitzel and braised beef rolade are menu staples, Hartmann’s constantly evolving a la carte and tasting menus are inspired by fresh local ingredients. Hartmann says he’s settling into his new home well, enjoying the Gastown neighbourhood, the warm reception from Vancouverites, and even the weather!