Chefs to Watch in 2012

Twelve Vancouver culinary talents to keep an eye on.

Here we have it — some creative chefs who’ll shape what Vancouver will be eating over the coming months. From well-known faces to ones that you may not know, this crop of chefs is full of talent to keep an eye on.

Chef Jefferson Alvarez

Jefferson Alvarez

Executive Chef, Fraîche Restaurant

Self-taught chef, Jefferson Alvarez left Venezuela for Ottawa at age 16 where he briefly attended Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa Culinary Institute. Moved to Toronto to work at Centro under famed chefs David Lee and Mark Thuet. Brief experiences at Pangea, Adega and Scaramouche were followed by a two-year stint at Canoe working under the inspiring Anthony Walsh.

Alvarez’s thirst for knowledge and experience has led him to spend his vacation times working, seven days a week, at a number of top restaurants in New York and Philadelphia including Aquavit and Morimoto. He spent a year working at Senses under chef Claudio Aprile before taking on his first Executive Chef role at a small restaurant called tomi-kro.

Throughout his career, Alvarez has taken many return trips to explore Spain in-depth while working stages at exciting restaurants such as the three-star Michelin rated Arzak and Akelare. Ready for a new experience, Alvarez decided to move to British Columbia in 2009 to head up the kitchen at Divino. In 2011, he joined Fraîche Restaurant as their Executive Chef.

Fraiche Restaurant, 2240 Chippendale Road, West Vancouver

604- 925-7595


Chef Ned Bell

Ned Bell

Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver

Ned got his first job at 15, washing dishes at Kerrisdale’s Avenue Grille.  His culinary studies began at Canada’s prestigious, Dubrulle Culinary School, where instructor Rob Feenie inspired Ned to follow him to Le Crocodile.  Flourishing as an apprentice under Feenie and Vancouver culinary legend, Michel Jacob, Ned next moved up as Sous Chef for the opening team of Lumiere, a restaurant that put Vancouver on the global culinary map.

Looking to broaden his culinary horizons, Ned moved east to hone his talent at key positions in Toronto and Niagara. In 1997 he was Executive Chef at Accolade in Toronto, in 1999 Executive Chef at Senses Restaurant in Toronto. In 2002 he headed West to Calgary and became the Executive Chef of Murrieta’s Grill. In 2204, he became the Executive Chef of Vintages Restaurant. In 2007, Ned fulfilled a dream and returned to his Okanagan roots to become co-owner and chef at the Kelowna lakeside favourite, Cabana Bar and Grille.

After a 2010 move back to Vancouver to be closer to family with his wife and newborn son, he became the Consulting Executive Chef at The Waldorf Hotel, and in 2011 became the Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver.

Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, 791 West Georgia Street, Vancouver



Chef Jonathan Chovancek

Jonathan Chovancek

Executive Chef, Kale & Nori  

Jonathan apprenticed in Toronto at the ingredient-driven restaurants Aerie Resort in 1995, and then was promoted to Sous Chef there in 1998. In 1999 he was the Chef de Partie at the Sooke Harbour House; in 2000 he went back to Toronto as the Chef de Partie at Avalon. In 2002 he went back out West to Zambri’s in Victoria where he was the Sous Chef, and then in 2003 he joined the King Pacific Lodge on Princess Royal Island as their Executive Chef. From 2004 -2011, he was the Chef de Cuisine at Culinary Capers in Vancouver. During the 2006 and 2008 Olympic Games, Jonathan led Culinary Capers teams to Torino and Beijing, respectively, where he earned rave reviews from a discriminating international clientele on both occasions. Of course, his skills were in full force throughout Vancouver’s recent Olympic Games.

He is also a consultant with Growing Chefs, a Vancouver-based non-profit society that brings professional chefs into elementary school classrooms to teach children how to plant, maintain, harvest and enjoy the bounty of their very own urban vegetable gardens.

In 2011, he co-founded Kale & Nori Culinary Arts.

Kale & Nori Culinary Arts, 1020 Main Street, Vancouver



Chef Dan Craig

Dan Craig

Executive Chef, EBO Restaurant and the Delta Hotel Burnaby

While Dan was going to high school in Ontario he got a job washing dishes at a friends deli, they needed help in the kitchen and he progressed from dish washer to cook. He moved out West and took a job in Victoria at the Empress Hotel as the 3rd cook for 6 months, then a friend offered him a job at Japanese Village where he worked as a Teppanyaki Chef for 1 year. He loved cooking and decided to go to culinary school, he enrolled in Camosun College and took the Chef program for 1 year, he then apprenticed at the Delta Ocean Point Resort for 5 years. An opportunity came up to compete in a prestigious culinary competition, he ended up winning a string of competitions which then sent him on a journey to Australia where he worked on the Gold Coast at a resort for a few months. From there another opportunity lead him to work at one of most renown restaurants in Sydney at Tetsuya’s, and then a cook job at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney. Back to Canada, a friend called him and lured him back to Victoria to work a cook position at the Westin Bear Mountain Hotel in Victoria. Then to France (prize from the culinary competition) he spent 5 weeks in Paris staging and eating. Dan was then was lucky enough (Bruno Marti helped him) to get a job in l’Abbaye Saint-Ambroix 2 Michelin star (2 hours south of Paris) and he worked for 1 year as Chef de Partie. Then back to Canada where he joined the Delta Hotel Burnaby 3 years ago, first he was as the Banquet Chef and then promoted to Executive Chef 1-1/2 years ago.

Delta Hotel Burnaby, 4331 Dominion Street, Burnaby



Chef Quang Dang

Quang Dang

Executive Chef, West Restaurant

Chef Quang Dang began his culinary career at West, where he worked as junior sous chef in 2005. For the next five years, while working his way ever-upward in some of Vancouver’s finest kitchens, Quang quickly established himself as an advocate of sustainability and a champion of West Coast cuisine, a role that he continues to undertake in defining his approach to modern cookery. In 2006 he was the Chef de Cuisine at Rare, from 2007-2010 he was the Chef de Cuisine at C Restaurant and in 2010 he became the Executive Chef for Diva at the Met and the Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver. In September 2011, Quang returned to West Restaurant as their Executive Chef.

Raised in Calgary, Alberta with family roots that stretch back to Scotland and the orchards and rice fields of Vietnam, chef Dang originally moved to Vancouver in 1998 to finish his engineering degree and fulfill a dream to train for the Olympics with Canada’s national field hockey team. Quang went on to compete in a number of international food competitions such as the Bocuse D’Or in Lyon France, the National Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in Winnipeg and most recently represented Canadian cuisine at the 2011 European Seafood Exposition in Brussels, the largest of its kind.

West Restaurant, 2881 Granville Street, Vancouver



Chef Michael Deutsch

Michael Deutsch

Executive Chef, Fleuri Restaurant and Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver

Born in British Columbia, Michael washed dishes at Basiles from 1985-1988, then cooked at the Bimini Pub until 1990. Michael then attended and graduated from Vancouver’s Dubrulle French Culinary School. Upon graduation in 1992, Michael worked at Café de Paris for 2 years, then at Pappis Restaurant from 1994-97, he then joined The Sutton Place Hotel in 1997 as Chef de Partie. Michael was promoted to the position of Chef du Cuisine in 2000 and was with the Sutton Place Hotel through 2005. Shortly thereafter, Michael expanded his career internationally by being selected and sponsored by Moët & Chandon to work in several Michelin star restaurants and hotels in the Champagne region of France. Continuing his overseas adventure, he then moved onto the Hotel Le Sirenuse in Positano, Italy, and from there to the Five Star Landis Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, where he held the position of Western Executive Chef. He returned to Canada in 2008 and worked as the Executive Chef of the Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa before rejoining the Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver in 2010 as their Executive Chef.

Fleuri Restaurant and Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver,  845 Burrard Street, Vancouver



Chef Jennifer Dodd

Jennifer Dodd

Chef de Cuisine, Edible at the Market

Born in Ottawa Ontario, Jennifer spent the last fifteen years laying the groundwork to establish herself as a professional chef. She gained fluency in both culinary and pastry arts from Dubrulle International Culinary & Hotel Institute of Canada, and completed her Red Seal at Vancouver Community College. From 2002-2006 she was the Sous Chef at Joe Fortes Seafood & Chophouse, she was then promoted to Executive Sous Chef in 2006 thru 2008. From 2008 – 2010, she was the Executive Sous Chef at Goldfish Pacific Kitchen. In 2010, she become the Executive Chef at The Teahouse Restaurant and in 2011 she became the Chef de Cuisine at Edible Canada at the Market, with access to the freshest ingredients from our local producers and bounty of Granville Island Public Market.

Edible Canada at the Market, 1551 Johnston Street  Vancouver



Chef Tom Lee

Tom Lee

Sous Chef, Edible Canada at the Market

Tom Lee discovered his love for cooking at the early age of 15, already influenced by a decade of helping his mother and grandmother in the kitchen. All of his family dinners, celebrations, and potluck dinners were centered on delicious food. After high school he attended the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA), in Hyde Park, New York, earning his Associate in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Upon graduating from the CIA, Tom worked in the 3-Michelin Star Restaurant “Restaurant Gordon Ramsay” in London, England for 1 year, under the infamous Chef Gordon Ramsay. He worked his way up to Chef De Partie before moving to Chef Ramsay’s tapas style 1-Michelin Star restaurant Maze. After a stint at The Pourcel Brothers 2-Michelin Star Restaurant Le Jardin Des Sens in Montpellier, France, Tom returned to his hometown of Vancouver, and the position of Sous Chef at Goldfish Pacific Kitchen. In 2011, he became the Sous Chef at Edible Canada at the Market.

Edible Canada at the Market, 1551 Johnston Street  Vancouver



Chef Dale MacKay

Dale MacKay

Executive Chef & Proprietor, Ensemble and Ensemble Tap

Dale was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1979. From the time he was 17 years old, he was singularly focused on proving to himself and to his family that he could become a great Canadian chef with his own unique culinary style and voice.  His experience runs a gamut of challenge and profile, from the anonymity of Private Chefing in Italy, to assuming the title of the Youngest Grand Chef in the World (at age 27, of 160 globally) as Executive Chef of the Five Diamond, Grand Relais & Chateau Lumière, in Vancouver, and most recently to a widely publicized battle for culinary supremacy on Food Network Canada’s Top Chef Canada.

From 2001 – 2007, Dale was Ramsay’s protégé, he worked in London at Claridge’s Hotel and at the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, and in Tokyo at The Conrad Tokyo Hotel. Before returning to Canada, Dale worked as Executive Sous Chef at the London NYC Hotel, overseeing Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Maze Restaurant, private dining and room service.

Chef MacKay moved back to Vancouver in 2007 and worked as Executive Chef at Lumière. In December of 2008, Dale became Executive Chef of both Lumière and db bistro moderne Vancouver (sister to NY Chef Daniel Bouluds’s db bistro moderne NYC, Miami  and Singapore), and remained there honing his craft and his reputation for applying classical French technique to pacific northwest ingredients, until the restaurants closed their doors in March of 2011.

In May 2011 Dale opened and became the Executive Chef of Ensemble, on July 4, 2011, Dale was named Top Chef Canada – the country’s first. In December 2011 Dale opened his next restaurant Ensemble Tap.

Ensemble, 850 Thurlow Street, Vancouver



Chef Cesar de la Parra

Cesar de la Parra

Executive Chef, Nuba Restaurants & The Waldorf Hotel 

Cesar worked as a dishwasher while going to high school in Mexico City, finishing high school at 17. He then went to cooking school in Mexico City for 2-1/2 years and studied in the morning and worked in the afternoons as a Commie and then line a line cook at Basque Restaurant. At 19 he worked at a fine dining international restaurant in Mexico City and became the head chef and learned a lot. One day he went back to Basque and told the Executive Chef that he wanted to do an Apprenticeship in Spain. Within days his wish came true and he was off to San Sebastian, Spain to Lesarte to apprentice at Restaurante Martin Berasategui starting there at 20 years old.

After working there for 1-1/2 years he went travelling around Europe and then returned to Mexico City and got a job to cook as a creative chef in a production kitchen with unlimited resources at one of the best restaurants in Mexico City. His job was to take pictures, write manuals and recipe books and too create 5 new dishes every day. At 22 years old he learned straight up cooking and making menus. An opportunity came up to go to Vancouver to open Nuba’s Gastown location in December 2008 when he was 23 years old. He took the job and within days he was in Vancouver working as a consulting chef for the Nuba Group, he then became the Executive Chef at Nuba, once the Gastown location was up and running he then opened the commissary kitchen and café at Nuba on 3rd Avenue, here he trained all the kitchen staff, developed manuals to create simplicity. He strives for excellence and wants their company to be one of the best companies to work for in British Columbia. After Nuba’s restaurants were running efficiently the Waldorf Hotel project was born. He didn’t take the top position as Executive Chef he actually turned it down to concentrate on Nuba, however after a few months it was clear that they wanted him to take over as the Executive Chef at the Waldorf Hotel which he did, then he opened a Nuba at the Waldorf. He then created the Leeteg Room serving Spanish Cuisine and then started a Mexican Brunch on weekends at the Waldorf.

Nuba and the Leetag Room at The Waldorf Hotel, 1489 E Hastings Street,  Vancouver



Chef Mike Robbins

Mike Robbins

Executive Chef, The Oakwood

A native Vancouverite, Mike knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career that was both intense and rewarding.

Mike began his cooking career at Earls and over the years he has honed his craft in restaurants both near and far, including well-established Vancouver spots like Joe Fortes, Glowbal Grill steaks & satay and COAST Restaurant, as well as restaurants ‘down under,’ in Australia. Michael Robbins was then appointed as the Executive Chef at Sanafir in 2010. After some time off travelling around Asia, he then became the Executive Chef opening The Oakwood in Kitsilano.

The Oakwood Bistro, 2741 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver



Chef Hamid Salimian

Hamid Salimian

Executive Chef, Diva at the Met and the Metropolitan Hotel

Hamid went to Vancouver Community College Culinary school in 1997, while going to school he also worked at The Sutton Place Hotel as an apprentice, he also did pastry school at VCC after work. He spent 5 years at The Sutton Place Hotel as the PM Saucier.

In 2003 he joined the Metropolitan Hotel for 5 years at Diva at the Met as the Sous Chef then as the Banquet Chef. In 2007 he joined The Westin Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria as Executive Souse Chef for 2 years, and then moved back to Vancouver to open the Westin Wall Centre Vancouver Airport Hotel as the Executive Chef in 2009. In 2011 he returned to Diva at the Met and the Metropolitan Hotel and became their Executive Chef.

Diva at the Met and the Metropolitan Hotel, 645 Howe Street, Vancouver



Chef Chris Whittaker

Chris Whittaker

Executive Chef, O’Douls Restaurant and the Listel Hotel  

Chris Whittaker began his culinary career at the tender age of sixteen in Thunder Bay, Ontario. After working in a number of the finer restaurants with chefs of diverse backgrounds and styles, he turned his attention west. After a stop in the Rockies at the prestigious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Whittaker made his way to Vancouver a city perfectly suited to his creative and contemporary sensibility.

Since arriving in Vancouver in 2000, Whittaker has been an integral player in some of Vancouver’s most interesting kitchens. Working at the Delta Vancouver Suites and later taking the helm as Executive Chef at the Pacific Palisades Hotel and Zin Restaurant, Whittaker has garnered praise for his eclectic cooking style and passion for local products and ethically sound ingredients. Chris is currently Executive Chef at O’Douls’s Restaurant & Bar on Robson where he continues to captivate guests with his creative genius!

O’Douls Restaurant and the Listel Hotel, 1300 Robson Street, Vancouver


I have eaten meals by all of these chefs in their respective restaurants or at one of the events over the past year and each has been unique in some way or another.

By: Richard Wolak

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