A “To Die For” Interview With Trailblazing Vancouver Chef Jonathan Chovancek

A longtime fixture in Vancouver’s culinary scene, Chef Jonathan Chovancek has done it all. And we mean all. From leading culinary teams at multiple Olympic Games to hosting CBC’s ground-breaking documentary “Village on a Diet” to co-founding a line of small-batch bitters with wife and business partner Lauren Mote, his passion for food knows absolutely no bounds. Read on for Jon’s fave food haunts around the city, including a secret sushi spot that you need to visit pronto.

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

Café Medina for their harissa burger. And L’Abattoir’s brunch is absolutely exceptional. I like going with four people and ordering the full menu to taste everything. Their pastry basket is incredible. Try everything that’s in the basket!

Favourite spot for cocktails?

UVA for obvious reasons [his wife is the bar manager]. As well, I like YEW at the Four Seasons, Boulevard to see Justin, West to see Sabrine, CinCin to see David. As for my drink of choice, I’m a big fan of classics. I’ll often ask the bartender for their creative take on a classic with whatever spirit that I’m craving at the time.

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

I’m not loyal to any particular establishment or brand. In Vancouver there are so many options, so it’s just a matter of location. If I’m in in the Fraser area, I’ll opt for Matchstick. On Main, it’s JJ Bean. And downtown, I’ll head to Café Medina.

Where do you stock up on produce / groceries?

Where I live in the West End, there is a Korean grocer, a Persian grocer and several other hole-in-the-wall shops that I like to visit. I’m a big fan of the farmers markets and I also really like going to Granville Island, where I can pick up excellent seafood and meats.

Your favourite restaurant for a special occasion?

Lauren and I get treated like family at Boulevard and I love Chef Alex’s cooking. Maenam is always a great spot with a big group of people to celebrate something. Ask For Luigi is where I celebrated my 40th birthday, and JC Poirier [the chef and owner] also catered our wedding, so it’s a special spot for us.

Best Vancouver patio in your opinion?

The Keefer is the best patio in the city at midnight. Go for a drink. Their signature apothecary cocktails are always awesome!

Favourite hidden gem/HITW?

We eat at Motomachi Shokudo three times a week. Definitely order the spicy miso ramen or the bamboo charcoal ramen. It’s owned by the team behind Kintaro Ramen, so they have the same noodles. I think it’s my favourite ramen spot in Canada.

Another favourite is Sushi Bar Maumi in the West End. It’s located in a cul-de-sac on Bute Street. It’s just this guy and his girlfriend running an eight-seat sushi bar. It’s a total hole in the wall – they don’t even have a liquor license – but they have the best sashimi and rolls. They fly fish in from Japan twice a week. It is phenomenal.

Preferred source for pastries?

I love Cadeaux Bakery. Their cakes are amazing. I think Beaucoup does awesome French butter-based pastries: their texture, the flavour and the travelability of the product. You can pick it up in the morning and the croissants are still fresh hours later.

Go-to food truck?

I like to go to a restaurant and sit down. I don’t do food trucks. I’m not one for standing up.

Best sandwich in town?

Las Tortas for their chorizo and egg torta. It’s savoury and super juicy! And my guilty pleasure is a Subway BMT with everything on it…ordered after midnight only. I used to eat it all the time in high school, so it has a nostalgic appeal.

Thanks Chef Jon for sharing your “to die for face” with us! 

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