Food & Wine Photo Credit: Clinton Hussey

2012 Foodies of The Year

This year’s feted include ranchers, drink-slingers and everyone in between. The thing they all have in common? A youthful approach to using the bounty of the West with passion and zeal.

CHEFS

Justin Leboe, 38
Model Milk, Calgary

He was washing dishes for Umberto Menghi at 13, he worked at the French Laundry and he made Calgary’s Rush an overnight sensation, but it’s his new restaurant—named after the former Model Milk factory it occupies—that has the wags talking about Leboe as Cowtown’s next great chef.

"The most important tool is a sharp knife. The brand doesn't matter as long as it's sharp." --Dan Hayes, The London Chef
“The most important tool is a sharp knife. The brand doesn’t matter as long as it’s sharp.” –Dan Hayes, The London Chef

Dan Hayes, 31
The London Chef, Victoria

Hayes has brought his background in modern English seafood cuisine to a city that loves England. The result has been a serious injection of fun into the local scene, from bringing in French legend Michel Roux to conducting the best cooking classes in town.

Makoto Ono, 33
Edohei, Winnipeg

This native Manitoban is taking turns working in Edohei, his dad’s excellent Winnipeg restaurant, and exploring the world in his quest to expand his culinary knowledge. So how does he make the list? By winning Canada’s Gold Medal Plates over the nation’s greatest chefs when he was still in his 20s. Whatever he does next—a move to Vancouver is rumoured—will be worth taking note of.

Joel Watanabe, 36
Bao Bei, Vancouver

Everyone was so excited by the edgy location, the decor and the endless line-ups that they forgot that, those things aside, the reason to come back again is Watanabe’s inventive menu that never crosses into being twee or ironic.

"Edison's Medicine" spice rub
“Edison’s Medicine” spice rub

Edison Mays, Jr., 35
Sidecut, Whistler

A native Californian, Mays paid his culinary dues via the Beverly Wilshire, the Bristol Hotel in Paris and the Four Seasons in Nevis. In 2009 he found his niche in Whistler where, as chef de cuisine, he’s amped up the resort’s Sidecut restaurant with his mastery of beef and seafood. His custom rubs—scores of them—so deftly play with seasoning and heat that diners buy them to take home.

Tim Davies, 28
The Willows on Wascana, Regina

The Willows was fostering local producers well before locavore became a catchphrase. The result is a true expression of Saskatchewan cuisine without a hint of pretension.

Tim Davies's honey glazed pork belly.
Tim Davies’s honey glazed pork belly.

Deependra Singh, 35
Guru, Edmonton

It seems inconceivable that Edmonton, with its large South Asian population, had to wait until the opening of the west end’s Guru to have a bona-fide, high-end Indian eatery, but one dance with chef Singh’s elegant Rajasthani Alberta lamb curry paired with Tantalus riesling shows it was worth the wait.

Jefferson Alvarez, 33
Fraiche, West Vancouver

Despite his amazing credentials (New York’s Aquavit, Philadelphia’s Morimoto, Toronto’s Canoe and Centro), this self-taught Venezuelan hovered under the radar for years at Commercial Drive’s Divino, until moving up in altitude and prestige at West Vancouver’s Fraîche. Now his twists on classic dishes have diners ignoring the view and thinking about Alvarez as one of the city’s culinary stars.

“ The older I get, the more I think about my childhood and flavour memories. Saffron brings me back to my mother's cooking." - Hamid Salimian, Diva at the Met. —HAMID SALIMIAN, DIVA AT THE MET
“ The older I get, the more I think about my childhood and flavour memories. Saffron
brings me back to my mother’s cooking.” – Hamid Salimian, Diva at the Met.

Hamid Salimian, 35
35Diva at the Met, Vancouver

Molecular gastronomy is easy to classify as a fad, until you sit down and experience a meal created by a chef who uses every tool available to floor you with his creations. Sure, there’s liquid nitrogen, xanthan gum and probably some agar agar, but there are also some wonderfully rich Persian influences and, above all, an intense focus on the finished plate. Is this the West’s most exciting chef?

Andy Bujak, 36
The Boxwood, Calgary

When River Café opened a casual, rotisserie-centred room in the Beltline, Bujak was their man. He’s created a menu that personifies Albertan high-casual cuisine.

Lorenzo Bottazzi,38 & Andrea Bini, 39
Bibo, Vancouver

It took a Calgarian—Bill McCaig of Nicli Antica Pizzeria—to kick-start Vancouver’s current pizza frenzy, but this pair of Italians have brought a certain authentic bunga bunga to the city.

Mary-Jane Feeke, 33
Benjamin’s, Selkirk, MB

After cooking around the world, Feeke came home to the Prairies to open a restaurant in Selkirk—“the Catfish Capital of the World.” She cranks out pizza with her wood-fired oven, teaches cooking classes and runs a mentorship program.

FOOD CARTS

Noriki Tamura, 37
Japadog, Vancouver

The food-truck trend exploded everywhere in the West this year, and in many ways, it’s become the purest form of cuisine—no tablecloths, just a 1981 cube van and a propane tank. Amid the excitement it’s important to remember that in 2005—well before Portland’s ascendency—a 32-year-old Tokyo ad salesman named Noriki Tamura came to Vancouver with his wife, Misa, and decided that the noble hot dog was the canvas on which he would express his culinary ambition. Since then his carts have become de rigueur stops for foodies. A bricks-and-mortar spot opened in 2010, and last year they opened a location in Manhattan.

Shawn Greenwood, 33
Perogy Boyz, Calgary

Our initial trepidation about buying a Ukrainian staple from a guy with such a WASP-y name was allayed at the first bite of his duck, Saskatoon berry and chive ponzu perogies. In his spare time he helms the kitchen at the excellent restaurant Taste—at this frantic pace he’ll at least look like he’s over 40 soon.

Michael Kaisaris, 29; Lindsay Ferguson, 28; Chester Carey, 34 & Jose Rosales-Lopez, 25
Re-Up BBQ, Vancouver

As a cuisine, Southern barbecue always seems to get hung up at the border, but this quartet has captured the essence of why it’s great. There are only two menu items (brisket or pulled pork) and one drink (Southern sweet tea, of course), and there’s no artisanal fuss. Plus we’re hooked on their holiday smoked turkeys.

Ariel del Rosario, 38 & Roel Canafranca, 33
Filistix, Edmonton

If chicken adobo takes its rightful place amid the great dishes of the world, it will be at least in part due to the roving effort of del Rosario and Canafranca and their Filipino fury of a food cart.

Autumn Maxwell, 32
Cold Comfort, Victoria

This bespoke ice creamery creates drool-inducing flavours (bacon, brown sugar and buttermilk or blue cheese and honey) and delivers them by bicycle around Victoria. A food truck without the truck—now that’s a revolutionary idea.

Jason Apple, 35 & Jory Simkin, 36
Roaming Dragon, Vancouver

Their distinctive truck has been the face of Vancouver’s current food-cart boom, and their pork-belly slider was the final confirmation that a new way of eating has taken hold in the West.

Jorge Torres, 22 & Ian Bowman, 22
El Torrito Taco Truck & Grill, Winnipeg

It’s tough to say what Winnipeggers wanted more: an NHL hockey team or a killer food truck. Now they can enjoy one of Torres’s white corn and chopped chicken tortillas before heading to a Jets game. Talk about doubly blessed.

RESTAURATEURS

Daniel Braun, 37; Chris Sills, 39; Edgar Gutierrez, 32
Tres Carnales, Edmonton

Stop us if you’ve heard this one: a Mexican, a Filipino and an Edmontonian open a restaurant… The punch line is, Edmonton finally has the exact sort of rustic casual taqueria—four tacos for 10 bucks, a litre of sangria for $13.50—everyone wants in their neighbourhood.

Sebastian  Sztabzyb, 34 & Phil Robertson, 34
Phil & Sebastian Coffee, Calgary

It’s probably easier to corner the silver market than make a go of it as a coffee purveyor these days. Bean prices are sky high and there is competition on literally every corner. These two started small with  a high-end Clover machine at the Farmer’s Market before moving into a retail spot in Marda Loop and, recently, a swank second location in the renovated Chinook Centre mall. And, through it all, no compromises—just some of the best coffee in the West.

Nigel Springthorpe, 35
Alibi Room, Vancouver

Not that long ago, the Alibi Room was the place a bunch of celebrities used to own on the ragged edge of Vancouver’s Gastown. But under Springthorpe’s guidance, it’s morphed into the region’s preeminent gastropub. Stellar beer list, great food.

Jake Skakun, 29 & Paul Grunberg, 31
L’Abattoir, Vancouver

In many ways L’Abattoir is the perfect restaurant for this list (chef Lee Cooper and bartender Shaun Layton are previous honorees). It seems staffed entirely by those who never saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theatre but thanks in large part to Grunberg, it blends professional and casual perfectly. The wine list, masterminded by Skakun, is compact, clever and fair with none of the usual suspects checking in.

Maryann Carmack, 30; Scott Renton, 34 & Ryan McGregor, 31
El Guapo Chorizo Grill, Victoria

Do one thing and do it well. Like a chorizo sausage—equal parts smoky and hot paprika—with arugula and red pepper on an olive-oil dressed bun. Simple. Awesome.

WINE AND SPIRITS

Danielle Tatarin's Smoky Lake Old Fashioned
Danielle Tatarin’s Smoky Lake Old Fashioned

Danielle Tatarin, 38
The Keefer, Vancouver

With the Keefer bar, Edmonton native Tatarin has managed that rare feat: delivering consistently well-made drinks (with a chaser of cocktail education) to the large crowds who descend on this Chinatown hotspot each night.

Brad Stanton, 36 & Terry Threlfall, 35
Hawksworth, Vancouver

There are a few cardinal rules at play here. First, a hotel bar can be either elegant or hopping, but not both. Second, a hotel restaurant can have a deep list or a well-priced list, but not both. This pair evidently didn’t read the rules. Stanton’s bar at Hawksworth in the Hotel Georgia (which is a restaurant located in a hotel more than a hotel restaurant) is the model of sophistication yet packed with revellers until closing. Threlfall’s voluminous list is comprehensive without being compromised. These two are the ballast that allows Hawksworth to sail.

Gerry Jobe, 37
Raudz, Kelowna, BC

You have to be passionate about spirits to be a bartender in the heart of wine country. Jobe is able to distill the best of the region’s ingredients, shake them with heavy dose of cocktail know-how and turn out the most memorable drinks between Vancouver and Calgary.

Matt Sherlock, 29
Nichol Vineyard, Naramata, BC

Sherlock is leading the wines-on-tap movement in BC with his pioneering work with Ross Hacksworth’s excellent Nichol winery. If he has his way, the days of uncorking a three-day-old malbec to sell by the glass will soon go the way of the dodo. And not a moment too soon.

David Paterson, 31
Tantalus Vineyards, Kelowna, BC

Pinot noir is universally accepted as the hardest grape in the world to grow, so where does a 31-year-old winemaker get off making a pinot that’s so balanced? It helps that, while born in Vancouver, he was raised in New Zealand, where they know a thing or two about pinot. He also makes fantastic rieslings. Lucky us.

Tyler Schramm, 33
Pemberton Distillery, Pemberton, BC

You have to be a glutton for punishment to start a distillery in British Columbia in the 21st century. The laws and regulations for distilling spirits are the sort that have Romanians who lived under Ceausescu muttering, “Boy, that’s repressive.” But pioneers like Pemberton’s Schramm—a master distiller—have persevered, and as a result we not only have locally made vodka (Schramm’s), we have a beautiful, round, mouth-filling potato vodka that can compete with the world’s best. There’s also a just-released organic gin, to be followed in a few years by a single-malt whisky. It almost makes one optimistic.

Andrew Ferguson, 34
Kensington Wine Market, Calgary

This Scotch sommelier can make a whisky-lover out of just about anyone. He’s known for selecting and bottling his own casks from the best distilleries across Scotland, and he has exclusive rights to 60 of the region’s finest brands. Calgary is fortunate to have him.

PRODUCERS

Janeen Colvin, 38
Cool Springs Ranch, Endeavour, SK

One person converting her isolated ranch to free range and grass fed and convincing her neighbours about the benefits of sustainable ranching? It’s the very definition of a grassroots revolution.

Andrew Shepherd, 33
Vancouver Island Salt Company, Cowichan Valley, BC

Salt’s the oxygen of the culinary realm. People give insignificant attention to it until they’re deprived. Shepherd, of the Vancouver Island Salt Company, doesn’t take salt for granted—which is clear if you see him donning some waders and harvesting it in the tidal waters off Cherry Point. After that it’s back to the office to smoke, infuse and generally tease every flavour out of the white gold.

Julie Rempel, 35
Fresh Air Flavours, Nipawin, SK

Foraging in the lush valleys of Vancouver Island? Child’s play. You want commitment? Head out into the forest outside Nipawin, Saskatchewan (280 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon), and then turn your gathering into dreamy offerings like wild rosehip spread or lilac white wine jelly. Julie Rempel puts the Prairies in a bottle.

Avni Soma, 39
Vastu Chai, Canmore, AB

Using recipes passed down from her great-grandmother and working directly with small-scale organic farmers in India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, Avni Soma makes ethically sourced, fair-trade tea blends. All well and good, unless the result isn’t fantastic tasting. Lucklily, it is.

BAKERS

Megan Lamming, 20
Purebread, Whistler

When this Whistler bakery hits the Vancouver farmers markets, we’re there, joining the (inevitably long) queue to pick up Lamming’s lavender Earl Grey scones, cranberry ginger loaves and lemon-chevre brownies. And on the weeks her bakery opts out of winter-market weather? We join the queue on the Sea to Sky highway to hit her home turf in Whistler.

Phil Gadd, 39
Loaf Bakery, Fernie, BC

Pretend for a minute that Fernie doesn’t have world-class skiing, amazing mountain biking or spectacular scenery—we’d still make the drive to partake in this ex-pat Englishman’s sublime breads and thin-crust pizzas. (Just try getting a seat before a Ghostriders home game.)

Byron Fry, 23
Fry’s Red Wheat Bread, Victoria

Our guess is that he doesn’t have a card, but if he did it would read: Have Oven, Will Travel. Fry comes from a long line of Victoria bakers—the original Fry’s Bakery opened in 1897—and he’s upholding the tradition, barnstorming the provincial capital with his mobile brick oven and loaves to die for.

Aviv Fried, 38
Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, Calgary

We were impressed when we heard about Autumn Maxwell delivering cold ice cream on the warm streets of Victoria by bicycle. We were doubly so when we met Mr. Fried, who delivers warm bread on the cold streets of Calgary using the same method. Here’s to commitment.

My fave ingredient is real butter. It makes our buttercreams so rich with a melt-in-your-mouth, velvety texture.
My fave ingredient is real butter. It makes our buttercreams so rich with a melt-in-your-mouth, velvety texture.

Annie Dam, 34
Cake Couture, Edmonton

There are two types of cakes: those that look good, like the ones those Food Network bakers crank out, and those that taste good, like the ones your mom used to make. This Edmontonian has melded these two solitudes and then put it in words in her new book. Dam indeed.

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