"It's always been the art and science of pastry that has really connected with me. My dad's an engineer, so I've always been mathematical or scientifically inclined when I'm solving problems, and pastries just really fit nicely with that.
But I hated working with chocolate! I didn't touch it for 2 years after I finished culinary school. It was always presented as something that you had to kind of feel, and I didn't understand what was going on with the process to be able to really control the material when I was working with it, which I found frustrating.
A few years after school I took a job as a pastry chef, and the executive chef told me I was entering a chocolate competition. I didn't have a say, and so I did a lot of reading and really dove into trying to and get a better understanding of how to work with the chocolate. I kinda stumbled my way through it and ended up winning the competition. One of the judges flew me out to learn with him in Belgium, and that's when I started to really understand the science behind it and how to work with the chocolate, which is when I really started to get excited about it.
Then, in 2010, Vancouver had the Winter Olympics and there was this big new 5-Star hotel opening, and I was involved in the opening of the whole property. I did that for a year, but kind of got sick of the corporate side of managing in that type of environment. I really wanted a creative outlet where I could kind of control the direction we were taking with the product and how we could compose the recipes.
So in 2011, I turned 30 and gave notice. My last day of work was my 30th birthday, and I just went for it, setting off to start BETA5."
What I Love Most about Vancouver
“I grew up in Toronto, which is this sprawling urban center. I came out to Vancouver 14 years ago and was immediately drawn to being surrounded by the ocean and the mountains, so really, it was the natural landscape that was the first thing that really connected with me. That’s what got me initially.
But now, having lived in this city for so long, the food culture is what’s keeping me here. I prioritize all of my disposable income on eating, so whether it’s at restaurants at farmer’s markets or for great local produce, it’s just a really exciting city for food.”
My Vancouver Musts
"I have so many spots to recommend! I'd say coffee at places like Revolver and Bows X Arrows, and lunch at spots like Juke Fried Chicken, Motomachi Shokudo Ramen, Tacofino, Say Hey Cafe, Au Petit Cafe for Vietnamese, Heritage Asian Eatery, Anh and Chi or Peaceful Restaurant. For dinner, I'd recommend Bao Bei, Savio Volpe, Ask for Luigi, L'abbatoir or Monarch Burger. Dessert has got to be Beaucoup Bakery, Lee's Donuts or Thomas Haas."
My Advice for Others
“You’re only as good as the last meal that you put out. It doesn’t matter if you won all sorts of awards, the only thing that’s of concern to the customer is what you serve them. So if the product that you’re making today isn’t as good as the stuff that you won an award for, the awards don’t really matter.
So we challenge ourselves to be consistent and to operate at a high standard. It’s crucial to have that persistence and determination and to always be looking for a challenge. The people who really become successful are the ones who are willing to challenge themselves. This is a difficult industry to make a lot of headway in if you’re wanting somebody to kind of hold your hand through the process. You’ve really got to put your head down and challenge yourself to be better. The people who challenge themselves to be better - the ones who are always on - thinking about new ideas, new menu items, the composition of a recipe - those are the people who really push our industry forward.”