Chef Chris Whittaker

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 Chris Whittaker

Last week I spent an afternoon with Chef Chris Whittaker at O’Doul’s Restaurant inside The Listel Hotel in downtown Vancouver. I have known Chris for over a year and a half and it was a pleasure to chat with him about his passion for the outdoors and love for food.

Prior to joining the Listel Hotel he spent 5 years at the Pacific Palisades Hotel as their Executive Chef, before that he was at the Delta Vancouver Suites as their 1st cook for 1-1/2 years, before that he worked at Chateau Lake Louise and some places back home in Thunder Bay, On. He started off as a dishwasher.

In your Chef role, what food operations do you oversee?

Room service (129 rooms), O’Doul’s Restaurant, Banquet space, outside catering

Did you always want to be a chef?

I went to school for International Business Management, then decided to cook and I love it.  I am passionate about cooking as it is always changing.

Do you participate in all the events you are invited?

No we only do the events that are positioned to our clientele and we support all the ocean wise events as we support them.

For the Ocean Wise Chowder event, how did you choose the recipe that you created?

Making use of seasonal ingredients, staying consistent with what a chowder should be.

How long have you been the Exec Chef at Listel Hotel & O’Doul’s?

3-1/2 years

Your background is in hotels, have you ever considered not working in hotels?

I have but it has to be the right kind of environment and opportunity.  I am lucky here especially as a boutique hotel to have my creativity.

The First Dish:

Organic Beets Salad

Gold beet & goat cheese puree, roast red beet, pickeled chloga, pickeled crosnes, honey glazed cipolini onion, hazelnut & black pepper praline, apple vinegar reduction, Agassi hazelnut oil.

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

I did a dinner and dialogue sustinance festival for Farm Folk/City Folk. I wanted to profile the vegetables from Notch Hill Farms in Sorento, BC

How do you go about cooking cuisines of countries such as Chile?

I use local ingredients, and recipes and do research to understand the culture.

What type of cuisine is O’Doul’s?

Pacific Northwest cuisine

Since you joined, how creative have you been?

I have made a big support for being green and oceanwise.

What do you like to do in your off time?

Outdoors, hike with the dogs, fishing, hunting, camping and gardening

The Second Dish:

Organic Ocean Sockeye Salmon

Organic Ocean Sockeye Salmon

Pan seared sockeye salmon, citrus braised salsity (notch hill), organic leek fondue, spot prawn ravioli, braised greens

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Using local aspect – putting salmon on the dish, putting spot prawns on the dish, the greens create perfect balance.

What is your favourite cuisine to eat personally?

Japanese and Thai

What are your favourite restaurants in Vancouver?

Gyoza King, West and Araxi in Whistler

Who cooks at home?

My wife and I both do the cooking.

What is your favourite dish to cook at home?

Fresh handmade pasta, simple baked chicken

Have you visited Listel hotels in Japan?

Yes when I first started at Listel Vancouver, they sent me to Japan to tour their operations in Japan.

Has O’Doul’s changed its menu and direction since you joined as Executive Chef?

They used to be steaks now it is fish, with better ingredients, treated with more respect. Our fish sales are higher now as people are looking for healthy choices. Having great suppliers like Organic Ocean is key.

The Third Dish:

Triple Chocolate Chemeus

Triple Chocolate Chemeus

Chocolate Terine –dark chocolate, milk and white chocolate, sea-salt & peanut praline, peanut mouse, chocolate espresso salt.

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Wanted to do something that was really chocolaty not to heavy using chocolate, salt and peanuts.

Do you make the desserts?

No I oversee my pastry chef to make sure the ingredients used are as local as possible, and to balance what’s offered on the menu.

What are the must have ingredients in your home pantry?

Salt – grey or mauldan

Butter

Vinegars

Oils –olive, nut and truffle

When do you take a break?

Summer time is the slowest time

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

By: Richard Wolak