Chef Oliver Beckert

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 Oliver Beckert

A few weeks ago I spent the afternoon with Chef Oliver Beckert at YEW Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver.

Oliver was born and raised in Nuremberg, Germany. He worked at a restaurant when he was 16 years old for a couple weeks as a trial during the summer. He then worked at a restaurant in Nuremberg where he apprenticed for 3 years. Afterwards he worked at Bellevue Palace in Bern, Switzerland for 18 months as a cook. He then went to New York on vacation with his Aunt and ate at many of the fine eateries, he loved NY and wanted to find a way to work there. He applied at the top hotels and at 23 he was hired by Hotel Pierre (Four Seasons) where he worked for 18 months and then transferred to the Four Seasons in London for 2 years where he specialized in fine French dining as their line cook he was then promoted to Junior Sous Chef. He moved to Washington, DC and worked at the Four Seasons for 4 years as the Executive Sous Chef. Oliver then moved to Miami for 2 years to open the Four Seasons Hotel (it was an eye opening experience) as the Executive Sous Chef, he then moved to the Four Seasons in Lanai, Hawaii for a month and was then offered the Executive Chef position which he accepted and spent 4 years as he oversaw 7 restaurants on the property, he wanted a change and there was an opening in Vancouver, he joined the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver in January 2009 as their Executive Chef.

Did you ever think you would only work in hotels?

Well I look at our restaurant in the hotel as a restaurant vs a hotel restaurant.

Describe your role as Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver.

I run YEW Restaurant, banquets, room service and offsite catering. Lots to oversee including 3 Sous Chefs. 20% of my time is devoted to cooking while the rest is managing people, admin and ordering.

 

What are the differences between working in your role in Hawaii vs Vancouver?

In Hawaii, I spent much of the day on a golf cart checking each of the 7 restaurants, the environment was tropical. In Vancouver the set-up is very different and of course the weather here is different too.

The First Dish:

Smoked Salmon

Cedar smoked sockeye, charred scallions, and crispy poached egg

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

Smoked salmon in Vancouver us unbelievable, I had the egg before in New York, I played with it a bit and decided to go with it and charred the green onion.

What are your favourite restaurants in Vancouver (outside of where you work)?

  • Chambar
  • Vij’s
  • Le Crocodile
  • Miku Restaurant

Who does the cooking at home?

My wife is a fantastic chef and she does the cooking at home.

What is your favourite cuisine?

Depends on my mood from Asian to Italian.

What challenges you as a chef?

Hiring staff and finding the right people to be part of the team, developing new menus and dishes, the seasons with different foods available.

How did you Olympics menu appear?

We held at brainstorming meeting once a week and we came up with our Olympic menu, it was very successful and the restaurant was packed during the Olympics.

What is your favourite dish to make (personally)?

BBQ

What is your favourite dish to make (in the restaurant)?

Ahi Tuna rare with roasted fois gras and seasonal vegetables

The Second Dish:

Salmon

Spiced local Coho salmon, cauliflower puree, pomegranate and brussel sprouts

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

What’s in season in the winter, combination of flavours that are good for you.

How do you develop your monthly special menus?

Our monthly special in YEW Restaurant is always $35 for 3 courses which can be paired with wines for an extra charge. I usually develop the menu with my restaurant chef and our pastry chef, our focus is often local.

If there is anything you would do different what would you do?

I would want a larger kitchen, add a chefs table and more prep space.

Where is your favourite cheese from?

Farmhouse Cheese in the valley.

Where are you going for your next vacation?

I am going to stay home and see BC, I am planning on renting an RV and then drive around BC to meet the producers and visit wineries in the various regions around the province.

The Third Dish:

Sablefish

Miso glazed with sea asparagus, wood ear mushrooms and spicy clam broth

What was your inspiration behind this dish?

I wanted to Miso something with a good fish, local and seasonal ingredients using Asian techniques.

Where is your favourite food city?

New York City

Where was your most recent culinary trip?

I spent 10 days in Tokyo cooking dishes from our YEW Restaurant at the Four Seasons Tokyo and before that I did a similar trip to cook at the Four Seasons hotel in Mexico City.

What is the unique spice that I tasted in the Sablefish dish?

It was Kansuri Paste, a Japanese spice that I added to the dish.

What is your favourite fish to cook?

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna or BC Salmon

What do you like to do in your off time?

  • Family time
  • Watch movies
  • Sports
  • Play in the hotel soccer league
  • Skiing
  • Traveling

Where do you see yourself in 3 years?

I will be somewhere in North America – Vancouver and beyond.

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

By: Richard Wolak