STYLE BY SARAI | PHOTOGRAPHY BY KRIS POR
Men of Vancouver (MofV) is a monthly editorial featuring the most stylish and professional men in Vancouver. Style by Sarai recently interviewed Desmond Chen for this exclusive in-depth photo editorial.
What do you do for work?
I wear many different hats but the one I’ve worn the longest is that of a restaurateur. I grew up in the business and have been active in the industry since my teenage years overseeing various Thai House locations, Urban Thai Bistro in Yaletown, and our new Alberni Street location spinoff, Pink Elephant Thai which opened 2.5 years ago. As part of our growth for Thai House Ventures, we’ve been importing the Thai House Curry Sauces for retail sales Canada-wide. You can find them in many of your local grocery stores in the lower mainland.
Outside of the restaurant business, do you work in any other areas?
Outside of the restaurant business, I invest in real estate and run a property management firm. In an effort to support homegrown talent and new businesses, I’ve also been an angel investor in various projects here in Vancouver. In the coming months, I’m excited to say I will also be involved in a nightclub/lounge.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
I started young. At the age of 13, you could find me in the back of the original Thai House location on Robson Street as a kitchen helper on the weekends. After a few years of working during the summer, I started learning how to cook, marinate and prepare some of our sauces. At 16, I worked at the front of the house. After finishing school, I moved to our head office learning more of the business aspect of running a restaurant, from human resources, accounting, marketing, sourcing suppliers and budgeting.
What does a typical work week look like for you?
Mondays are always hectic. I review all the weekend’s activities and meet with my General Manager to assess the past weekend and plan for the upcoming week. Morning caffeine fixes are taken care of close to home, either at Café Artigiano or Faubourg. With the great weather that we’ve been enjoying, I’ve started biking to the office if I don’t have a busy day. The best time for me to focus is early in the morning before 7 a.m. when there are no distractions. I like to get in early to plan and prioritize my day out. In the afternoons, I meet with my office and restaurant staff or some of my suppliers whom I’ve built a great relationship with over the past two decades. Evenings are spent mostly with the family along with visits to the restaurants. When there are industry-related or charity events, you can count on me to be there to show my support.
What does a typical weekend look like for you?
Fridays and Saturdays are great nights for enjoying the food and nightlife scene of Vancouver. I usually check up on my restaurants, followed by a late dinner and drinks with friends. Sundays are reserved for family starting with brunch or takeout which is usually Dim Sum or a home cooked meal.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love being active, playing both hockey and tennis. There is a competitiveness in sports that keeps me motivated. Being active helps me unwind and it’s a great stress release too. I also love the camaraderie that comes along with playing a team sport. And of course, time with family and friends is important too.
BLACK + BLUE | 1032 Alberni Street, Vancouver
When you’re not at one of your restaurants, where do you like to go for a bite to eat or a night out?
I’m a Glowbal Group fan. Several of my restaurants are within a block radius of theirs and I’ve become good friends with the owners and managers. I admire and respect the passion they have for the business and their staff always provide top-notch, impeccable service.
What about Black + Blue do you like the most?
The ambience is amazing. Black + Blue has been a hotspot on Alberni St. since its inception, with its classy décor and amazing energy. The cool lounge and bar at the bottom floor are great for impromptu get-togethers. The second floor dining room has lush banquettes and private rooms for those special moments. And recently, they opened up their rooftop patio on the third floor, a great place to soak up the rays on a sunny Vancouver day.
PINK ELEPHANT THAI | 1152 Alberni Street, Vancouver
What do you enjoy most about being in the restaurant and hospitality industry?
I love meeting new people and introducing new customers to our cuisine. I also cherish my staff, which are my extended family.
Where do you see the food & night life scene in Vancouver going?
The scene is exciting. New chefs with great ideas along with established chefs with worldwide culinary introducing Vancouver to new ingredients, concepts and techniques. There’s also an abundance of hidden gems throughout the city just waiting to be discovered. The dining scene in South Main and Gastown are amazing with new restaurants that have recently opened this past year. In addition, the nightlife scene is ramping up, with Yaletown going through a renewal and Gastown winning over new audiences. In my opinion, there is definitely room for growth and places like Davie Street are prime locations for expansion of the entertainment district.
KILLJOY | 1120 Hamilton Street, Vancouver
What do you like about KillJoy?
Killjoy has a NYC feel. Beauty and Essex, located in the Lower East Side is one of the coolest supper club lounges in the US. Its entrance is a pawn shop and at Killjoy, they have a barber shop in the front area. The upper floor is more casual and it’s a good spot to relax and unwind. Their charcuterie and cheese selections are fantastic, and they also offer an attractive selection of wines by the tap. The basement exudes more of a Soho-like vibe. Look for Alex Crowston or Steve Brooks and rest assured, you’ll be looked after. It’s also a great lounge and just a block away from Bar None, one of the longest running nightclubs in Vancouver and one of my favorite places to go.
What is a must-have for any guy’s wardrobe?
I would have to say a classic v-neck. It’s a perfect complement to a casual outfit for the day, and for the evening, it looks great under a suit or sports coat too.
What’s your most appreciated clothing item in your wardrobe?
Asides from my PRPS denim jeans, my navy blue Etro sports coat. It’s versatile so I can wear with most of my dress pants and jeans. Navy is by far one of my favourite colours that pairs and blends well with almost any colour. I find it a bit more interesting than black or grey.
What message do you want to convey through this editorial?
I frequently offer my restaurants to support charitable causes within the community and will continue to do so. I also strive for a balance of fun and work, and whenever I can, I try to make sure that I support the industry that I am a part of.
What does style mean to you?
I think style is very important and one way to showcase this is through fashion. It’s a personal interpretation of yourself. I think a good first impression is paramount and how you choose to convey yourself says a lot about you. I believe that you can never be overdressed unless you’re wearing a tuxedo to a beach barbeque. Be sure to pay attention to all the little details that are often overlooked. Little touches such as cuff links, socks, watch straps and pocket squares all add something unique to your outfit.
It’s not what you wear but how you wear it!
THANKS DESMOND CHEN, FOR BEING A STYLISH MAN IN VANCOUVER!
MEN OF VANCOUVER TEAM
producer / stylist
STYLE BY SARAI
producer / photographer
KRIS POR STUDIO
creative / editor
KRIS POR STUDIO
hair & makeup
Men of Vancouver is a monthly editorial featuring the most stylish and professional men in Vancouver. MofV is currently being released exclusively on Vancity Buzz.