A “To Die For” Interview With Food Photographer Joann Pai

Slice of Pai. You know the name and follow the Instagram feed religiously, but do you know the face behind the account? Meet Joann Pai, a food and travel photographer from Vancouver currently living in Paris. Named among the best Instagram food photographers by Forbes, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and The Telegraph, Joann squeezed in a sitdown with us in between photoshoots to share some of her favourite hometown spots.

Brunch haunt we’re most likely to find you at on the weekend?

While it’s not technically brunch food, I like to go to Kingyo and get a deluxe bento box on weekends. My favourite way to eat is to have a few bites of everything, and the bento box comes with 12 items so it’s perfect. But they only make 10 a day, so you have to go early!

Favourite spot for cocktails?

Shaun Layton’s cocktails at L’Abattoir. It was the avocado gimlet that first got me, but I trust Shaun so now I just ask him to make me whatever he wants. I also love Pourhouse and The Diamond for a good Old Fashioned.

Where do you satisfy your caffeine addiction on a regular basis?

Many people don’t know this, but Basho Café on Hastings has really good coffee. The barista roasts his own beans and uses a much larger amount of beans than most places, so the coffee is rich yet still mild and has a balanced taste.

Where do you stock up on produce / groceries?

I like to visit the West End Farmers Market on the weekend. For groceries, I go to Fujiya often because I do a lot of Japanese cooking. For a butcher, Harkness & Co on Broadway is really good.

Best Vancouver patio in your opinion?

My go-to place for beers after work is Six Acres. It’s the perfect corner to people watch! And I really like the patio at the Alibi Room too.

Your favourite restaurant for a special occasion?

L’Abattoir. I enjoy the atmosphere and you know that the cocktails are always good. I never liked sweetbreads until I tried them there and now it’s my go-to appetizer…I actually crave it. I also love their steak Diane.

Favourite hidden gem / hole in the wall?

I love Mr. Red Café for North Vietnamese. I always order by number: #5, #16 and #17. Out in Burnaby there’s a spot called Lao Shan Dong. It’s a complete hole in the wall with sticky floors, but it makes a great Taiwanese beef noodle soup. I go there just for that dish.

Preferred source for pastries?

Beaucoup Bakery is one of my faves. The owner Jackie and I actually met because of her baked goods. I tried one of her croissants and when I ate it, I had to meet the person behind it because it reminded me so much of Paris. Beyond the croissants, I also love the kouign amann. It’s hard to find in Vancouver and Beaucoup’s version is really good and buttery. I also love the bread at Nelson the Seagull…it’s dense and soft at the same time.

Go-to food truck?

Le Tigre for their brussel sprout “crack” salad, beet fries with togarashi mayo and fried chicken. I also love Yolks’ eggs benedict with potato skewers and lemon truffle oil…that gets me! And Via Tevere’s food truck has a margherita pizza that makes me really happy – for me, it’s all about the cheese and the sauce.

Best sandwich in town?

I love the brie, pear and prosciutto baguette at Finch’s. I also really like the grilled pork bánh mì from Viet Sub and Mr. Red Café’s “traditional Vietnamese sandwich” (that’s exactly how it’s listed on the menu).

Browse Joann’s incredible food and lifestyle photography here on Instagram

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