Food & Wine Photo Credit: Clinton Hussey. Styling by Murray Bancroft.

2011 Foodies Of The Year

They’re young, talented and pretty damn confident. From Edmonton’s 27-year-old foodie blog queen to the 30-year-old chef who’s upending Vancouver’s Italian scene, these are the men and women reinventing how we eat in the West.

CHEFS OF THE YEAR

Connie Desousa, 29 & John Jackson, 35
Charcut, Calgary

Jackson and DeSousa didn’t make things easy on themselves. They opened just as expense-account lunches died. Then they saddled themselves with a name that has umpteen different pronunciation options. For the record, it’s char (as in Arctic char) and cut (like “I cut myself just so I can feel something”). Luckily the prairie-raised duo had a little experience under their belts—she at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Jean Georges in NY, he at Vongerichten’s Lagoon in Bora Bora and London’s River Café—so that other stuff didn’t amount to a hill of organically grown beans. Charcut hits exactly the right tone—rustic and refined, thoughtful but tough.

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Rotisserie Spring Creek Rib Eye by Connie DeSousa and John Jackson, Charcut.

Andrea Carlson, 38
Bishop’s, Vancouver

The legendary John Bishop’s name may be on the sign, but make no mistake: when people rave about the food here they’re talking about the inspired cooking of Andrea Carlson.

Patrick Lynch, 28 & Sterling Grice, 37
Foo, Victoria

Street food finally hit the West this year and this pair was at the frontline, converting a liquor store’s walk-in cooler into a place where we’re choosing between paneer cheese dumplings and Vietnamese ginger caramel chicken. Or not choosing: we usually get both.

Matthew Batey of Mission Hill can't live without his specially grooved gnocchi board.
Matthew Batey of Mission Hill can’t live without his specially grooved gnocchi board.

Matthew Batey, 32
Mission Hill, Okanagan

If the Okanagan is ever going to fulfill that “Napa of the North” promise, it will need more chefs like Matt Batey—chefs who apply classic technique and know “seasonal” and “local” themes are just the starting point for complex menus.

Tim Cuff, 34
Aura, Whistler

The hot table in Whistler isn’t at one of the village’s twin temples of gastronomy, but at Aura, the re-launched restaurant at Creekside’s Nita Lake Lodge. The reason is Saskatoon-raised Cuff’s refined but never precious touch with local dishes like seared golden trout with lemon thyme bok choy.

Seigo Nakamura, 34
Miku, Vancouver

Nakamura gets on the list for introducing the West to the sublime aburi (flame-grilled) sushi. Try it once and you’ll be a convert.

Neil Taylor of Cibo favours a no-BS approach to Italian cuisine, so it’s not surprising the one kitchen gadget he can’t live without is this throwback to the stone age.
Neil Taylor of Cibo favours a no-BS approach to Italian cuisine, so it’s not surprising the one kitchen gadget he can’t live without is this throwback to the stone age.

Neil Taylor, 30
Cibo, Vancouver

Taylor’s been a great chef for so long that it’s disquieting to discover he’s just three decades old. His dishes at Cibo—like black pepper tagliatelle with wild venison Bolognese—pair the devotion of a 96-year-old Umbrian with the youthful panache of a kid who’s having way too much fun.

J.C. Poirier, 36
Campagnolo, Vancouver

His South Granville room Chow succumbed but deserved a better fate; Poirier has bounced back at Campagnolo, where he’s brought a new depth and refinement to an already great room. You can’t keep a good chef down.

Who doesn’t love sunchokes? The vegetable, also known as Jerusalem artichoke, is a fave of chefs J.C. Poirier, Matthew Batey and Jenni Willems—who likes to boil and mash them before adding a dab of Vegemite.
Who doesn’t love sunchokes? The vegetable, also known as Jerusalem artichoke, is a fave of chefs J.C. Poirier, Matthew Batey and Jenni Willems—who likes to boil and mash them before adding a dab of Vegemite.

Adam Donnelly, 28
Segovia, Winnipeg

Thankfully there’s one guy—Donnelly—who understands that tapas are a great Iberian tradition that has nothing to do with serving patrons a plate of three little bacon cheeseburgers.

Ryan Stone, 29
The West Coast Fishing Club, Haida Gwaii, B.C.

It’s easy to forget about Stone, tucked away in secluded luxury on Langara Island. But coming out of the wild to lead Team Canada at this year’s Bocuse d’Or in Lyon should remind us his easy going demeanour is paired with impeccable French technique.

Brad Holmes, 31
Ulla, Victoria

A guy who can serve both a crispy chicken roll with Israeli couscous, bacon and carrots for $25 and Alberta Premium rye whisky for $5, all in a modern Chinatown room—that’s a guy we want to know.

Brad Boisvert, 33
Amuse Bistro, Shawnigan Lake, B.C.

He’s no longer the fresh-faced kid who opened Amuse in 2006, but he’s still just 33—and his preparations and unfailing dedication to his local suppliers have made his converted house in Shawnigan Lake a must-visit for any Western foodie.

Cliff Leir, 32
Fol Epi, Victoria

At 19 he built a brick oven in his backyard and started baking bread. Next he founded Wild Fire Bakery, built another brick oven and installed a wheat silo. His new spot, Fol Epi, is now headquarters for one the most passionate bakers in the West.

Vincent Leung, 32
Habitat, Canmore, AB

It took the siren call of the mountains—and the reins of the swank new restaurant at the Grande Rockies Resort—to lure Leung from the kitchen at Toronto’s acclaimed Senses. Good move, Vince.

Lee Cooper, 32
L’Abattoir, Vancouver

What started out as yet another Gastown restaurant (albeit one with a queasily honest name) has morphed into the hottest ticket—largely thanks to Cooper’s West Coast take on French classics, like a terrine of smoked pork hock and foie gras with sweet and sour beets and fried brioche.

Ricotta Gnocchi by Daniel Costa, Corso32
Ricotta Gnocchi by Daniel Costa, Corso32

Daniel Costa, 26
Corso32, Edmonton

He apprenticed at the legendary Jack’s Grill and honed his craft at gastropub Red Star, but at his new Jasper Avenue room, Corso32, Costa finally tapped into his Italian roots and delivered Edmonton’s first great restaurant of 2011.

Giselle Corteau, 32 & Garner Beggs, 32
Duchess Bake Shop, Edmonton

Along with Corteau, the macaron Queen of Edmonton, Beggs injects a welcome dose of Gallic flair (this Christmas their gingerbread house was a replica of Notre Dame Cathedral) into Edmonton’s burgeoning 124th Street district.

Tim Shultz, 30 & Carla Shultz, 31
The Green Ranch, Osage, SK

The Shultzes, with their herd of cattle, online store and enviro-attitude to farming, may be the sturdiest bridge in the West between family-run farms and young urban locavores.

Kurtis Kolt, 36
The Waldorf, Vancouver

He helped turn a restaurant that served cold cuts and condiments—Salt—into one of the defining restaurants of Vancouver. Now he writes one of the best blogs on wine (cherriesandclay.com) and helps craft new wine programs for places like the very “it” Waldorf.

Lauren Mote, 28
The Refinery, Vancouver

She’s one part science geek (she’s into molecular mixology), one part old-time bartender (she knows the classics) and one part computer nerd (she tweets when she opens a new bottle of Amaro).

Some of our winners love high-tech immersion circulators, some demand the best blenders, but a few—like Miles Gould of The Grove—just want some good steel.
Some of our winners love high-tech immersion circulators, some demand the best blenders, but a few—like Miles Gould of The Grove—just want some good steel.

Miles Gould, 34
The Grove, Winnipeg

Gould decided that what Winnipeg needed was an authentic English gastropub where locals could gather to eat coronation chicken sandwiches or Berkshire pork and wash it all down with a cold pint of Harp. So he opened it.

Sarah McCauley, 31
Cin Cin, Vancouver

With sommeliers you usually have to choose: young and energetic, or old and knowledgeable. But spend five minutes listening to McCauley hold forth on Italy’s Alto Adige region and you know you’ve found that rare bird who combines the best of both.

PRODUCERS AND RETAILERS

Trevor Walker, 39
Plenty Epicurean Pantry, Victoria

His one-stop shop stocks everything artisanal, sustainable, handcrafted and organic. This is a guy who thinks nothing of taking a trip to Cowichan Bay to pick up fresh baking.

Robin Tunnicliffe, 36 & Heather Stretch, 38
Saanich Organics, Saanichton, B.C.

This pair (along with Rachel Fisher) has rallied local growers, as well as commercial and personal consumers, to expect more from their food. Kudos especially for pioneering a residential box delivery program.

Elise Watson, 25
Apiaries and Bees for Communities, Calgary

If this whirlwind founder of Apiaries and Bees for Communities (ABC) has her way, you’ll soon find urban bee hives taking up residence everywhere from Glamorgan to Mount Royal. West Hillhurst honey, here we come.

MEDIA/ACTIVISTS

Sharon Yeo, 27
onlyhereforthefood.ca, Edmonton
Yeo’s blog has become a go-to site for foodies in Northern Alberta. Most of the “mainstream” media will cop to scouring the site to get the very latest intel.

Pierre Lamielle, 30
Kitchen Scraps, Calgary
When he’s not writing award-winning cookbooks (Kitchen Scraps), Lamielle posts his funny and irreverent takes on his website (kitchenscraps.ca) where he riffs on everything from cutting onions to the foul-mouthed French.

Erin Crampton, 33
Crampton’s Market, Winnipeg
Everybody talks a big game about local sourcing, then they keep their stores open all winter stocked with Mexican goods. You know what’s really local? Erin Crampton shutting her store down every fall when she can’t stock local produce anymore.

We asked each of the under-40 foodies to chose one cookbook they couldn’t live without. The selections ranged from the encyclopaedic How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman to The Art of Simple Food—Alice Waters’ tome on all things local. But the two cited most frequently? New Yorker David Chang’s Momofuku and the English chef Marco Pierre White’s White Heat.
We asked each of the under-40 foodies to chose one cookbook they couldn’t live without. The selections ranged from the encyclopaedic How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman to The Art of Simple Food—Alice Waters’ tome on all things local. But the two cited most frequently? New Yorker David Chang’s Momofuku and the English chef Marco Pierre White’s White Heat.

RESTAURATEURS

Tannis Ling, 34
Bao Bei, Vancouver

Since last year, when visitors ask for a single restaurant recommendation, the answer has routinely been Bao Bei—the genre-defying room on a previously unheralded block of Chinatown. Owner Ling cut her teeth managing stalwart Chambar, so she knows a thing or two about keeping a room timeless and vibrant. But with Bao Bei she’s created an amalgamation of culture, food and ambiance that Vancouver didn’t even know it was missing.

Kevin Dahlsjo, 26
Two by Dahlsjo, Prince Albert, SK

This year he opened his first restaurant, the fine-dining Two by Dahlsjo; started a catering company, Sublime Catering; and was selected to compete at the Gold Medal Plates competition. And he’s 26.

Beata Thompson, 37 & Tania Fraser, 39
Fresh & Sweet, Regina, & The Brickhouse Bistro, Lumsden, SK

It started in Lumsden (pop. 1,600) with the opening of the Brickhouse Bistro. Then Thompson and Fraser hit Regina with Fresh & Sweet where, among other things, you can get a bacon and peach pancake panini topped with fresh whipped cream and syrup. Plus, the province’s best gelato.

Jeff Hetherington, 32
Pig BBQ Joint & Pig Dog, Victoria

Because let’s face it: the man who singlehandedly brought honest-to-goodness, roll-up-your-sleeves southern BBQ to formerly staid Victoria deserves some serious props.

Jeff Massey, 33
Restaurant 62, Abbotsford, B.C.

Remember the Fraser Valley? It’s that place where city chefs get the bounty they’re always raving about. What the area had in raw materials, it lacked in buzz—until Jeff Massey (who worked under Pino Posteraro at Cioppino’s) opened Restaurant 62 in Abbotsford. Now neither patrons nor ingredients have to travel into town for stellar cuisine.

Kelly Black, 33 & Jayme MacFayden, 30
UNA Pizza, Calgary

What is it with Calgary and awesome pizza? Most cities (i.e.,everywhere else in Western Canada) would be happy with the sublime Pulcinella. But no, Calgarians now have Black and MacFayden’s UNA, too. Doesn’t seem fair.

"Less cupcakes, more fish cakes" - Jenni Willems, New Ground Cafe
“Less cupcakes, more fish cakes” – Jenni Willems, New Ground Cafe

Jenni Willems, 36
New Ground Cafe, Birch Hills, SK

Plenty of wags can open an exposed brick hotspot in Vancouver’s Gastown and generate some buzz. So far we’ve only come across one—the ever-passionate Jenni Willems—who can do it in Birch Hills, pop.1,000.

Cord Jarvie, 34 & Frankie Harrington, 34
Meat & Bread, Vancouver

The best sandwich (the $8 porchetta ) in the coolest room in town. And it’s cheaper than Subway.

Nate Box, 27
Elm Café, Edmonton

Sometimes, instead of a 14-course tasting menu inspired by The Barber of Seville, you just want an expertly made sandwich paired with a strong cup of coffee. And when that’s the case, Box’s Elm Café is the place to go.

WINE AND SPIRITS

Graham Pierce, 39
Black Hills Estate, Oliver, B.C.

Since 2008, Pierce has been charged with ensuring that the winery’s flagship wine, Nota Bene, continues to be Canada’s version of Screaming Eagle—sporting a hefty price tag and a waiting list. So far so good.

Sue Echlin, 38 & Vance Lester, 37
Living Sky Winery, Saskatoon

Setting up a new winery is always a risky venture. Old joke: How do you make a small fortune in the wine business? Start with a large fortune. But doing it in Perdue, Saskatchewan? That’s the type of passion we bow down to.

BARTENDER OF THE YEAR

Shaun Layton, 30
L’Abattoir, Vancouver

A baby-faced assassin with a bar spoon, Layton has an encyclopedic knowledge of libations. But he’s not afraid to bend the rules in search of the perfect drink. Good listener, too.

 

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