Although the title of Masterchef Canada champion may be the ultimate goal for every chef who’s been lucky enough to done a white apron over the last seven years, competitors like Season 4 runner-up Thea Vanherwaarden have proven you don’t necessarily need to win it all to see success.
In addition to seeing her N'duja ricotta tortellini as a mainstay on the menu at Jamie Oliver’s Jamie Italian, Vanherwaarden has continued to build her brand through her popular company Theasty, where she provides recipe development, food photography, private dinners, classes, and more.
Vanherwaarden has also appeared as a regular food and lifestyle expert on several Canadian networks, and has served as a brand ambassador for a number of national and international brands.
We recently had a chance to catch up with the multi-talented chef before she makes her return to the Masterchef Canada kitchen on February 14, to find out where she likes to go for food and drink in her home base of Vancouver.
Homer Street Café has all the "feels” I expect of a great neighbourhood restaurant. Walking in, you just know that this is a top-notch breakfast joint. This Vancouver institution is set in one of the city’s most iconic and historic buildings and brings both character and warmth to the first meal of the day.
Every time I walk in here it feels like home...only with someone else doing the cooking. The kitchen focuses on contemporary flavours and comfort food served perfectly from their fire-engine red rotisserie. The atmosphere is welcoming, the staff ever-eager to please, and the food is always fantastic.
My current favourite? Chilaquiles made with mouth-watering ancho chilli, rotisserie chicken, avocado, cilantro, feta and eggs.
Whether in my own kitchen or dining out, I think that taking advantage of Western Canada’s ample bounty of ingredients results in building a community where everyone can truly benefit. Named Canada’s Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant, Nightingale’s focus on sharing locally sourced [ingredients by way of dishes] that are full of flavour is why this is my favourite lunch restaurant.
My ideal lunch is one that is creative and fun and having plates to share with friends or coworkers is the best way to try as many of Nightingale’s dishes as you can in one sitting. Their ever-changing menu based on fresh seasonal produce keeps me coming back with curiosity. And did I mention that the restaurant is a visual stunner?
Tip: grab a seat at one of the many chef’s tables to watch all the action in the kitchen.
Everyone that knows me knows that I am a sucker for a good bolognese. You could say I am a bit of a bolognese connoisseur, travelling far and wide to find the best of this Italian classic. Without reservation, I can say that nothing has come close to Chef Pino’s take on bolognese at Cioppino’s. Although I am not Italian by blood, a love for pasta and Italian food runs through my veins. That is why after stumbling upon this Yaletown classic more than a decade ago I became a regular.
Whether for a special occasion, a celebration, or a night out with someone special, Cioppino’s is hand’s down the best Mediterranean cuisine Vancouver has to offer. An added bonus, the sommeliers never steer me wrong and the wine list always leaves me in awe.
From late spring to fall, Vancouver is truly a place where every day can be spent on a balcony or patio sharing a drink with friends or loved ones. While the city boasts a number of great spots where a cold beverage can be enjoyed under a bright, but not too hot, sun, Joe Forte’s takes the cake for this city girl. The rooftop balcony is a great place to enjoy a glass of your favourite spirit.
Never too crowded, but also never dull, Joe Forte’s is my favourite place to enjoy a great drink and good company.