Q & A with Chef Chris Whittaker

“My favourite place to eat, anywhere in the world? My Mom’s house.

Chris is one very busy guy, but when you’re known for starting one of the top restaurants in Vancouver it’s easy to understand why. What’s so refreshing is what a genuine and caring guy he is. He very kindly put aside an hour in his busy schedule to meet and ramble around Stanley Park with me in a quest to find some edible hidden treasures, thankfully we found some…fiddleheads and salmonberries. I like to think of myself as a fairly food savvy girl, but I have to admit that I had no idea what a fiddlehead was, or a salmonberry for that matter, but thanks to Chris I now know, and am keen to try this sought after asparagus like gem.

Chris’s path to becoming such a celebrated chef is filled with self motivation, hard work and perseverance, and I think its exactly that which makes him such a humble guy. Starting out as pot washer at only 14 he was dedicated to always got the extra mile to prove himself as a capable and committed team member, which rightfully lead to a role as Garde Manager at only 15. Once he had that opportunity to work hands on with food, he knew he had met his calling, and from there he has put in the blood, sweat and tears to work his way up through the ranks and become owner of two very successful restaurants as well as the tonnes of extra curricular food work he does on the side.

His upcoming class, Wild Foods: Cooking Wild Meats and Foraged Foods is sure to be a hit, and being a much loved activity of Chris’ it will no doubt be filled with stories, insider tips from his regular outings, and passion for the topic! It’s important to point out that this is a one off too! Being such a busy guy we are super lucky to have him take a night off from his schedule and teach with us, currently there a few spots left still, but to save disappointment be sure to book your seat right away!

What sorts of food did you eat growing up?
We ate mostly comfort food and a lot of perogies, cabbage rolls, etc.  I remember a lot of preserving and picking from the gardens as some of my fondest memories.
Tell us about your background and how you got to where you are today?
As far as cooking industry goes… I started as a potwasher in my hometown of Thunder Bay at the age of 14. All I could think about was to get out of that station and start cooking. I would work after hours until 1am or 2am sometimes making sure all the tables were polished, pots were stacked from tallest to shortest and the floor was spotless. I finally got my chance in garde manger when I was 15…the rest is history!
I moved to Vancouver in ’99 started at the Delta Suites and moved on to Kimpton Hotels. I joined my current group Listel Hospitality Group in 2007. We opened Forage in 2012 and Timber last year.
If you could pick one meal to eat over and over again, what would it be?
That is a tough one, I have a bit of a short attention span!  But dumplings of any kind I can eat pretty consistently whether it be pan fried Chinese dumplings, gyoza or perogies.
What food are you most excited about this season?
I always look forward to cherries and tomatoes!
What one ingredient and kitchen tool could you not live without?
Good salt and a wooden spoon.
Favourite food blog or cookbook?
No favourites really, but I am really into looking at really old catering cookbooks with detailed pate en croute, vegetable and fruit carvings and complex terrine’s. There is something to be said about the amount of time we used to put into food…then to convenience and now it seems to be going back again.
Favourite place to eat, anywhere in the world?
My Mom’s house.
To find out more about what Chris is up to, keep an eye out for his classes with us here, follow him on Twitter, or why not book in for a meal at Forage or Timber to experience the fruits of his labour.
Photography and interview by Kateland Clarke.

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