– Words by Susan Lundy Photography by Don Denton
Boulevard: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Ken Nakano: My parents emigrated from Japan and settled in the Point Grey area of Vancouver. I grew up in a traditional-style Japanese household in a very European multicultural area. Most of my friends were first-generation Canadians too, so we had a lot in common in that regard.
B: How long have you been at Inn at Laurel Point and where were you before that?
KN: I have been here now for four months—the past five years were spent as the executive chef at the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver.
B: Why did you decide to become a chef?
KN: My parents instilled in me a passion for food and I’ve always had a keen interest in experiencing various cuisines. So it was quite natural to enter this industry. The strong role models and mentorship I received in many different properties inspired me to become a chef and leader for a team of my own.
B: What is the philosophy behind your food?
KN: I believe in using fresh, seasonal, sustainable, locally sourced products to produce sophisticated flavours that reflect our terroir.
B: What inspires you when you’re creating dishes?
KN: My team, for sure, and quite often it is childhood memories—the nostalgia is a dream but it guides me to flavour and garnish the products that our local producers are particularly proud of. These are my strongest memories that inspire and fuel my passion.
B: Where do your ingredients come from?
KN: I partner with local growers and suppliers whenever possible. My emphasis is on supporting our food-producing community.
B: How do you develop your menu?
KN: I start with what is available locally and build from there. The restaurant Aura, in-room dining and catering events are all created in one kitchen, so we have the opportunity to showcase our local producers on a variety of menus.
B: What is your favourite cuisine to cook?
KN: I enjoy the technical aspects of Japanese and French cuisine to offer our guests seasonal flavours driven by our local ingredients.
B: What is your favourite cuisine to eat?
KN: All types of Japanese food, from my mother’s home cooking to many of the great local sushi bars andkaiseki dinners. I am fascinated by the sophistication yet simplicity of Japanese cuisine at all levels of dining.
B: What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?
KN: Shoyu–Japanese soy sauce.
B: What is your go-to meal when you’re low on time?
KN: Raw egg mixed into hot rice with soy sauce and shaved bonito. I always have these items on hand at home so when I’m in a rush, this is as quick and easy as it gets.
B: What is a good simple piece of advice for pairing wine and food?
KN: Try to balance the wine and food to be of equal richness and weight, neither should overpower the other—this is a good starting point.
B: When are you happiest at work?
KN:In the restaurant, during a busy service, when all menu items are selling evenly, the teams and systems are flowing predictably, and the guests are delighted.
B: When are you happiest outside of work?
KN: Cooking Sunday dinner for my family and riding my motorcycles.