After running one of Vancouver’s premier patisseries from behind the scenes for more than a decade, Malaysian-born, B.C.-based chef Shobna Kannusamy said goodbye to her beloved bakery Soirette in 2021 and shifted her focus toward helping future generations achieve success as entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry.
In addition to working with restaurants and small businesses to develop their pastry programs, chef Kannusamy also serves as a mentor for women in the industry—particularly for immigrant entrepreneurs like herself. And despite no longer having a brick-and-mortar shop, chef Kannusamy continues to provide Canadians with a steady stream of picturesque patisseries via social media, and is currently in the process of creating a new cookbook.
With Wall of Bakers now onto its final two episodes, we decided now would be a perfect time to chat with the acclaimed pastry chef about her favourite food and drink spots in her home base.
I adore breakfast, but I adore brunch even more. Nancy Go Yaya in Chinatown transports me to my hometown in Malaysia, with all the feels. Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine share a deep history, once being a single nation in the past. Interweaving rich flavours from this region, chef Jian Cheng brings back all the hits for brunch!
I start my order with a traditional kopi, the type that makes you close your eyes at the first sip in excitement of the day that lies ahead. Then, I get the Roti John—a staple hawker-style dish that is a must-have here. The highlight for me is the quintessential achar in the filling—a mixed vegetable pickle with carrots, cucumber and French beans that still possess a good crunch, with a distinctive tang that usually comes from the use of tamarind, and a little belachan. To complete the experience, I order an iced milo simply because it is absolutely the right thing to do.
Heading to Richmond, this not-so-secret spot consistently serves up incredible Katsu (chicken or pork). I usually get the Tonkatsu Set—the pork cutlet is juicy and oh-so tender on the inside and fried to this exquisite golden hue of crispy panko perfection. Consistency is tricky, and Katsusan has always lived up to the mark.
Though it may seem simple enough, I have a deep appreciation for a dish that is done well. Details matter here—you get a lovely salad with a bright citrus dressing, and a well-rounded flavourful house made dipping sauce. Simple yet satisfying, as all good lunches should be.
Having a flair for marrying local flavours and presenting lovely plates, chef Welbert Choi of Forage on Robson serves up a delightful array of the best that B.C. has to offer. My highlights would always include the BBQ Duck chowder that is usually served with a Dungeness crab and shrimp toast, and the Cast Iron Pan Bread, served up with cheddar and a delicate spiced honey that lingers on long after that first bite.
To be honest, I would order one of each of the sarters if I could! The Sablefish here is so tender and buttery, and I love how it is paired with the octopus. It is a fun B.C. plate for sure!
Though I also love their dinner offerings, L'abattoir in Gastown is a gorgeous after dinner hang, with delightful, well-crafted, and imaginative cocktails. Come on—I can start with a tropical Just to Clarify, and end with James Bond's moody Vesper cocktail. Yes please.
The other draw for me here is the incredibly inspired dessert menu. The inventive desserts also come with a pairing, which elevates the whole experience for me. If I'm out for cocktails, this just hits the spot—sipping on a cocktail with a beautiful dessert to indulge in. What a perfect way to finish off a night in my town.
Watch: Wall of Bakers - Food Network Canada
Tune in to Wall of Bakers Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network Canada.