Chef Lee Humphries

Vancouver is home to some of the best chefs in the world, many have worked for the top chefs and restaurants around the world as well as around the city. Dishing with the Chefs is a series of Interviews with some of the top chefs in and around Vancouver.

Chef Lee Humphries

I spent the afternoon recently with Chef Lee Humphries at C Restaurant in downtown Vancouver. I have known Lee for over a year and have had the pleasure to chat with him about his passion for sustainability, fishing and most of all his love for food.

Growing up he wanted to be a Policeman, he grew up on a vegetable farm in SW England, he became a chef. On this visit Lee cooked up a few of his signature dishes for me to taste, cooking with Lee provided the perfect setting to dish with him and chat about his cooking, and his passion.

How did you end up becoming a Chef?

I lived in a small town and as you know I grew up on a vegetable farm, one day I got a job washing dishes in a local restaurant, one night the owner needed some help as they were short staffed and he asked me to wash the lettuce, scrape the carrots the rest was history so you could say within weeks I was cooking my way into some of the finest restaurants in London. I learned to be a chef on my own, I was lucky!

How did you end up coming to Canada?

After 6 years of working as a Chef in London, I met my now wife who was from Canada and we decided to travel to BC, we spent a month living and fishing on a boat in Desolation Sound, it was an amazing experience.

Where did you begin as a Chef in Vancouver?

I started off as a Sous Chef at West, working with Chef David Hawksworth and worked their for 2 years, I then moved on and was a Chef at Elixer in the Opus Hotel, then as the Executive Chef at Figmint for 3 years. One day I got a call from Sean Heather and the next thing I knew I was the Executive Chef and I oversaw the openings of Judas Goat, Fetch & Everything Café.

How did the Long Table Series come about when you were the Executive Chef at The Irish Heather?

It was timely, the recession was in full swing, people wanted value to go out to eat, Sean Heather and I had an idea, and he also had a long table running thru the restaurant. Hence the Long Table Series was born, we kept it casual, I loved introducing the food and ringing the bell every night and telling everyone about the dish they were about to it. I never knew that it would become so successful as it became, it was a diverse crowd and there were always new people coming for our comfort food.

The First Dish:

Scallop & Duck Consomme

Scallop & Duck Consomme – Bayne Sound Scallops, duck consommé, quince, pine mushrooms, fois gras powder

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

I wanted simple clean flavours, local and sustainable and most of all to keep it simple. When I go out in the winter, I like something light that feels warm and comforting to start and then go into adventurous dishes later on.

What is your Favourite Drink?

I love Whiskey and I like to know the differences between Scotch and Whiskey.

Has the menu at C Restaurant changed since you joined?

Yes, I have now incorporated some meat dishes on to the plate, I like proteins and I like to pair secondary cuts with seafood on the plate.

What do you most love about pairing proteins on a plate?

I like to expose people to trying new dishes. I am fortunate to be able to change the menu on my own.

What is the most risky thing you have done at C lately?

I wouldn’t say this was risky, more so adventurous, I added Black Pudding to the menu.

What was the first experience you had been involved in after joining C as Chef de Cuisine?

I was involved in the Gold Medal Plates on Chef Rob Clark’s team and that was pretty awesome.

The Second Dish:

Steve’s Sockeye Salmon

Steve’s Sockeye Salmon pomme-fondant, “saltimbocca” lamb sweetbreads, spinach, crisp anchovies, jus roti

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Looking at a local supplier for sustainability and sourcing is Steve Johansen, he deserved a dish named after himself. I like the fattiness of salmon, buttery fat. The theme of this dish is buttery goodness and the lamb sweetbreads melt in your mouth. The natural salts from the deep fried capers & anchovy makes this the perfect buttery & salt dish.

What are your Favourite restaurants in Vancouver outside of the company you work with?

I have a few for very different reasons.

  1. Lattitude on Main on my day off
  2. Refuel cause it is just so good
  3. Public on Main to enjoy a pint
  4. Les Faux Bourguois love it and I always sit at the bar

What are the 5 must have ingredients in your kitchen?

Butter, salt, pepper, olive oil, hot sauce

What do you like to do on your off time?

I love to flyfish and I take my wife and our dog.

The Third Dish:

Seared Scallops

Seared Scallops confit pork belly, burnt apple sauce, crab apple beignet, fois gras torchon

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

This is my favourite food, I love crab apples as my parents grew them in our backyard back home in England. Scallops are sustainable, I love the fat on the pork belly and I love the flavour of fois gras.

What was the first restaurant you dined at when you first came to Vancouver?

C Restaurant

What is your style of Cooking?

Simple, clean food using sustainable, local and organic foods as much as possible.

What is your favourite Food City in the world?

Paris

What would you like to do on your Culinary Journey in 5-10 years?

I would like to open 4 of my own restaurants

1)    Red (fine dining)

2)    White (caviar jazz lounge)

3)    Black (tapas)

4)    Green (sustainable communal dining)

What is your Favourite food and why?

Fois Gras, I love how flexible it is such as when covered in chocolate, fried or baked.

Are you Hiring for your Kitchen?

Yes I do the hiring for C Restaurant.

Who is the best Chef in the industry?

One of the best chefs is Robert Clark, he is a leader for so many reasons and from everything he does, he is the perfect human being come chef.

Stay tuned for the next chef in the Dishing with the Chef series.

By: Richard Wolak