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Interview: Chef Hector Laguna of Vancouver’s Botanist

Interview: Chef Hector Laguna of Vancouver’s Botanist


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Hector Laguna, 36, is a master chef. I was privileged to have some of his creations at his restaurant at Vancouver’s Fairmont’s Pacific Rim, Botanist. It was truly fabulous. I doubt that I will ever taste lobster tail without comparing it to Hector’s.

The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?
Hector Laguna:
It was definitely not planned; however, I grew up learning and cooking alongside my mother and I first fell in love with food by helping her cook for our family back in Mexico.

When I first moved to the US and was living in San Francisco, my friend told me that the restaurant he was working at needed help in the kitchen with prepping and putting the deliveries away. After I had been there for a couple of weeks, I realized how much I liked working in the kitchen and watching how the cooks worked. I talked to the chef and asked if he could give me an opportunity to cook in his kitchen. He said yes, and that was the beginning of my culinary career.

Do you have a specialty dish?
Not really one specific dish. I feel like every dish is special, and I cook with the same integrity no matter what dish it is. Two of my personal favorites on the Botanist menu include the charred octopus with asparagus, cauliflower, kohlrabi and chorizo and the seared sable fish with fermented vegetables, puffed tapioca with an onion nage.

Do you prefer a particular style of cooking?
I enjoy cooking everything in general. If you look at what we are doing here at Botanist, I will say that is a very ingredient oriented and season driven style of cooking.

What kind of atmosphere do you try to create in the kitchen?
An environment driven by team work and accountability. A place where we trust each other, we care about each other and we help each other.

What do you look for when you hire other chefs to assist you in the kitchen?
Enthusiasm, integrity, respect for themselves, for others and for food. And of course, creativity and skill.

What is your favorite spice? How do you use it?
I really like cooking with spices. I don’t know if I have a favorite one, but I really enjoy cooking with fennel seeds. I think it is very versatile, and complements a lot of other flavors very well. It can easily be the main flavor or the background of something else.


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


Vancouver’s food industry experts pick the city’s best restaurants for 2019

Ricardo Valverde is the executive chef at Ancora Waterfront Dining and Patio, an upscale restaurant with prime locations in False Creek and Ambleside. Its debut as a fresh-seafood dining establishment in 2015 was well-received, but its menus have since evolved into something much more complex: Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, otherwise known as Nikkei food.

Nikkei cuisine hasn’t become mainstream in Vancouver, but those who appreciate and enjoy its flavours understand why it’s such popular fare in other cities. Well-travelled culinary experts around town know its significance, which is why in this year’s Georgia Straight’s annual industry-insiders survey, almost three dozen chefs, food and beverage directors, and restaurant managers voted Valverde chef of the year (in a tie with Botanist’s Hector Laguna) and Ancora Ambleside one of the best new restaurants.

Originally from Peru, Valverde has always been fascinated with food. “I used to stand beside my mom and watch her cook, and I was the only one of four brothers who learned how to cook,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

After moving to Canada at the age of 17, he landed a gig as a dishwasher at a local fish-and-chips eatery and quickly moved up the ranks. After high school, he took computer-science courses in college, but that wasn’t his calling.

“I was feeling empty. I never really felt like that was what I wanted to do,” Valverde said.

Ancora’s executive chef Ricardo Valverde is popular with his peers in the restaurant industry, tying for first place in a survey asking who's the best chef in town. Ancora

He decided to switch gears, enrolled at the Dubrulle French Culinary School (before it was bought by the Art Institute of Vancouver), and took up positions in well-known spots like CinCin Ristorante + Bar, Diva at the Met, and Blue Water Cafe. But he didn’t find a permanent cooking home until he joined Viaggio Hospitality Group’s Ancora.

It was a long journey for Valverde to become the executive chef at the high-end dining establishment, but it has paid off, because he can finally cook something that defines him and his culture.

“I feel like it’s rewarding and a nice feeling, because I feel like I am putting who I am on the plate,” the chef explained. “I give people what I would prepare for myself at home. It’s what I believe is delicious.”

For his menu inspiration, he draws on childhood influences and travels with his wife.

“When we eat, we eat for research as well,” Valverde said. “I also have a very international crew that are all very talented, and I pick their brains a lot.”

One of his signature dishes is aji-panca glazed sablefish, which features Japanese ingredients like dashi-braised daikon and kale gomae. Valverde also put his own twist on a traditional Peruvian rice dish, arroz con pato, made with rice, duck, and huancaina (spicy cheese) sauce.

“I add my own take on Nikkei cuisine,” he added. “I use what this part of the world offers, and I give people what they’re familiar with, while adding my Nikkei touch.”

Valverde's showcases his Peruvian roots in his dishes, such as this Peruvian paella. Ancora

Valverde still remembers one very significant conversation he had with his father during the flight that brought his family to Canada 21 years ago. It was about his father’s expectations in their new country.

“He said to me, ‘Make patria,’ which means represent where you’re from and, at the same time, blend with the new culture,” he recalled. “So doing this, in a way, makes my parents proud.”

Many ambitious chefs who work their way up have one ultimate goal: to open their own restaurant one day. But that’s not Valverde’s main objec­tive.

“I’m very in love with this company right now,” he said. “What’s next for me is to keep growing with the company and mentoring young chefs. And just keep making patria, not just in Vancouver but all over Canada.”

Ancora received plenty of praise from Vancouver’s restaurant insiders this year, but they also gave nods to many other dining destinations around the city for 2019’s Golden Plates. From newcomers (Elisa Steakhouse and Como Taperia) to well-loved cuisines like Vietnamese and vegetarian (Anh and Chi and the Acorn), Vancouver is truly home to many world-class eateries.

Here are Vancouver’s food-industry-insider choices for 2019.

Botanist's executive chef, Hector Laguna, was also voted as the industry experts' favourite chef. Fairmont Pacific Rim


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