7 questions with Chef Jack Chen of Royal Dinette

Sep 12 2016, 9:03 pm

Canada is home to several talented and visionary chefs, many for whom their first allegiance in the kitchen is to the ingredient. Similarly, in other culinary centres in Canada, the new trend afoot is in embracing the lesser-used cuts of meat, and thinking outside of the box with not just “nose to tail” but using every possible portion of a given ingredient.

Chef Jack Chen of Vancouver’s Royal Dinette is certainly at the forefront of the sustainable dining movement, and his food is an evolving study in savvy practices and creative thinking. Likewise, Toronto’s Matt Blondin has earned acclaim for marrying Canadian ingredients with the flavours of the American south at his restaurant, Omaw.

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These two talented chefs will be teamed up in the Royal Dinette kitchen on October 5 for a collaborative dinner as part of the EAT! Vancouver Food + Cooking Festival. One of the many exciting pairings taking place for just one night of exclusive–but affordable–Dinner Series suppers, the event offering diners the unique opportunity to see what these two seemingly limitless chefs do in one meal.

With just one seating, and only 70 spots at the table, this family-style dinner promises to be an exciting evening celebrating fresh, local fall ingredients prepared by two of Canada’s rising stars.

We connected with Chen to find out more about how he approaches culinary collaborations, as well as Royal Dinette’s role in the sustainable dining movement.

What are you most looking forward to about participating in EAT! Vancouver?

I’m very excited to be working with Chef Matt Blondin from OMAW. He’s doing some unique work in Toronto and I’m looking forward to tasting his food and collaborating with him.

Chef Jack Chen of Royal Dinette in Vancouver (Photo courtesy Royal Dinette)

Chef Jack Chen of Royal Dinette in Vancouver (Photo courtesy Royal Dinette)

What are you most proud of when it comes to Vancouver’s food scene?

The diversity — there’s an incredibly wide selection of cuisines that are showcased in Vancouver. As a chef, I love experiencing all the cuisines and flavours that our city has to offer to find inspiration for my own dishes.

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What is your strategy for working on a collaboration dinner like you’ll be doing for EAT! Vancouver?

In our first year of being open, we’ve been fortunate to host many great chefs at Royal Dinette. Just as you would for guests from out of town visiting your home, we believe it’s important to keep our guest chefs comfortable in our kitchen and support them with anything they need, from preparing mis en place, sourcing ingredients and taking them out to dinner to our favourite spots in the city.

How do these kinds of collaboration diners impact the dining experience for guests?

Collaborative dinners offer guests a one-night-only dining experience that wouldn’t normally be available to them in Vancouver. For instance, if you love food but don’t have the opportunity to travel and visit restaurants in other cities, collaborative dinners allow you to try different food from chefs from around the country and even the world.

How do they affect the participating chefs?

I like to consider collaboration dinners as learning experiences. I like learning from my peers, watching other chefs work and getting their take on how to build interesting flavour profiles. At OMAW, Matt does his interpretation of modern southern cuisine — something I’m not too familiar with. I’m excited to see what we come up with as a team.

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Have you seen an expanded awareness in the industry from the inside about what it means to know where your food comes from? Do you see a shift from the consumer perspective?

As a farm-to-downtown restaurant, Royal Dinette works closely with farmers and growers to source fruit, vegetables, ethical meat and other ingredients that are local. I think a lot of restaurants in Vancouver do their best to follow the same method of sourcing ingredients, but things like citrus, olive oils and cheeses are harder to come by when you’re only shopping local. In reality, these ingredients can be sourced from all over the world — that’s just business.

Vancouver consumers definitely place a greater value on ingredients that are local. Farmers markets are growing in popularity and are filled with consumers sourcing ingredients that that are fresh, local, and organic.

What is your favourite under-appreciated ingredient to work with?

Offcuts of meat, like fish collar. The texture and flavour from fish collar is fantastic! From salmon, cod, and halibut, we save all our collars at Royal Dinette so we can transform a traditional offcut of meat into a dish that is both unique and delicious. We’re always coming up with creative ways to utilize ingredients to their full potential in order to avoid food waste.

EAT! Vancouver – Dinner Series: Jack Chen and Matt Blondin

When: October 5, 2016 at 7 pm
Where: Royal Dinette, 905 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver
Tickets: $135 each, including wine and gratuity; available online

Daily Hive is proud to be the exclusive media sponsor of EAT! Vancouver 2016