1. Noriki and Misa Tamura, 37 Japadog, Vancouver
It seems the food-truck trend exploded everywhere in the West this year, and there’s no more fitting vehicle to help a budding chef or restaurateur get into the game. Track down a 1981 Chevy cube van, slap a few propane tanks on the back, and you’re in business. In many ways, it’s become the purest form of cuisine—no tablecloths, wine lists or maître d’s to cloud your judgment. Either the food is good or it’s not. Amid the excitement it’s important to remember that in 2005—before Portland, before Austin—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 any B.C. tourist interested in food. A bricks-and-mortar location opened in 2010, and last year they opened a location in New York. Next up, L.A. After that…
2. Jason Apple, 35, and 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.
3. Shawn Greenwood, 33, Perogy Boyz, Calgary
Our initial trepidation about buying this 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.
4. Michael Kaisaris, 29, Lindsay Ferguson, 28, Chester Carey, 34, and 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, they make their own killer bourbon bacon, and smoke the best holiday turkeys in B.C.
5. Ariel del Rosario, 38, and Roel Canafranca, 33, Filistix, Edmonton
If chicken adobo takes it 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. We have a sneaking suspicion that future grads from the University of Alberta (the truck’s favoured stomping ground) will spread the word about their underappreciated cuisine for years to come.
6. Autumn Maxwell, 32, Cold Comfort, Victoria
This bespoke ice creamery creates drool-inducing flavours (bacon, brown sugar & buttermilk or blue cheese & honey) and delivers them by bicycle around the capital region. A food truck without the truck—now that’s a revolutionary idea.
7. Jorge Torres, 22, and 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.
INGREDIENT OF THE YEAR: SALT
8. Andrew Shepherd, 33, Vancouver Island Salt Company, Cowichan Valley, BC
It’s the oxygen of the culinary realm. People give insignificant attention to it until they’re deprived—at which time they run around like lunatics, desperate for more. Andrew Shepherd of the Vancouver Island Salt Company in Cobble Hill, B.C., doesn’t take salt for granted—which is clear if you see him donning some waders and harvesting his bounty 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. The result is amazing creations like banana pepper and mustard salt or the classic mesquite-smoked version.
9. Janeen Colvin, 32, 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.
10. 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.
11. Alice Jongerden, 42, Home on the Range Farms, Fraser Valley, BC
Some foodies bake, some cook and some file Supreme Court lawsuits to fight for the right to sell raw milk. The raw-milk debate is only going to get bigger this year, which means you’ll be hearing a lot more from this Fraser Valley firebrand.
12. Avni Soma, 39, Vastu Chai, Canmore, AB
Using recipes passed down from her great-grandmother in Western India, Avni Soma provides enthusiasts with ethically sourced, organic, fair-trade tea blends. She works directly with small-scale organic farmers in India, Sri Lanka and South Africa, who pick every leaf by hand to create her traditional blends. That’s a cup of tea you can feel good about.
13. 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.)
14. Megan Lamming, 20, Pure Bread, 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
WINE & SPIRITS
18. Dani Tatarin, 32, The Keefer, Vancouver
With the Keefer bar, Edmonton-native Tatarin has managed that rare feat: delivering a consistently well-made drink (with a chaser of cocktail education) to the screaming masses who descend on this Chinatown hotspot each night.
19. Brad Stanton, 36, and 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
20. Gerry Jobe, 37, Raudz, Kelowna
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 it with heavy dose of cocktail know-how and turn out the most memorable drinks between Vancouver and Calgary.
21. 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 relating to 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.
22. Matt Sherlock, 29, Nichol Vineyard, Naramata, BC
Sherlock is leading the wines-on-tap movement with his pioneering work at Ross Hacksworth’s excellent Nichol wines. 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.
23. DavidPaterson, 31, Tantalus Vineyards, Kelowna
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. But he also makes fantastic rieslings, so it’s possible he’s just a prodigy. Lucky us.
24. Andrew Ferguson, 34, Kensington Wine Market, Calgary
This Scotch sommelier can make a Scotch-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 Scotland’s finest brands. Calgary is fortunate to have him. And it’s not just because he looks so good in a kilt.
25. Dan Hayes, 31, The London Chef, Victoria
Hayes has brought his background in modern English seafood cuisine to a city that knows a thing or two about seafood and a thing or two about English. 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.
26. 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 waiting for.
27. Jefferson Alvarez, 33, Fraiche, West Vancouver
Despite his amazing credentials (New York’s Aquavit and Morimoto, Toronto’s Centro and Canoe), this self-taught Venezuelan hovered under the radar for years at Commercial Drive’s under-appreciated Divino, until moving up in altitude and prestige at West Vancouver’s Fraîche. Now his twists on classic dishes are enough to have diners forget about the view and start rightfully thinking about Alvarez as one of the city’s stars.
28. Edison Mays Jr., 35, Sidecut, Four Seasons Whistler, Whistler
A native Californian, May paid his culinary dues via the Art Institute of Los Angeles, a foray to Vietnam, the Beverly Wilshire, the Bristol Hotel in Paris, and the Four Seasons in Nevis. In 2009 he found his niche at the Four Seasons 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.
29. Justin Leboe, 38, Model Milk, Calgary
He was washing dishes for Umberto Menghi when he was 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.
30. Maryann Carmack, 30, Scott Renton, 34, and 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.
31. 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.
32. Deependra Singh, 35, Guru, Edmonton
It’s 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.
33. Joel Watanabe, 36, Bao Bei, Vancouver
Everyone was so excited by the edgy location, the decor and the endless line-ups that they forgot to realize that, those things aside, the reason to come back again and again is Watanabe’s inventive menu that never crosses into twee or ironic.
34. Hamid Salimian, 35, Diva 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. If someone said Salimian is the West’s most exciting chef these days, we just might agree.
35. Mary-Jane Feeke, 33, Benjamin’s, Selkirk, MB
After cooking around the world—from South Africa to Switzerland—Mary-Jane came home to the Prairies to open a restaurant in Selkirk—“the Catfish Capital of the World.” In addition to cranking out pizza with her wood-fired oven, she teaches cooking classes and runs a mentorship program to encourage young women interested in the culinary arts to do it all: have a family and a career, just like she has.
36. Lorenzo Bottazzi, 38, and 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 honest-to-goodness Italians have brought a certain authentic bunga bunga to the city. It’s even charming when they refuse to cut your steaming Napoli pie.
37. Phil Robertson, 34, and Sebastian Sztabzyb, 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—two guys and 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 redone Chinook Centre mall. And, through it all, no compromises—just possibly the best coffee in the West.
38. Daniel Braun, 37, Chris Sills, 39, and 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.
39. Nigel Springthorpe, 35, Alibi Room, Vancouver
It wasn’t long ago that the Alibi Room was thought of as 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 spot for those who love beer, while its solid gastropub menu and wine program have kept it from lapsing into one-note territory.
4. Jake Skakun, 29, and 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 to Grunberg, it blends professional and causal perfectly. The wine list, masterminded by Skakun, is compact, clever and fair. wl