09/21/2012 09:31 EDT | Updated 09/23/2012 12:20 EDT

BC's Top Young Chefs To Watch


A restaurant career isn't for everyone. It's a job that promotes talent and rewards passion and sacrifice. Especially sacrifice. If you don't possess any of those qualities and can't hold your own against a room full of hungry and picky diners, then you better get out of the kitchen. Fast.

The Huffington Post B.C. asked five veteran executive chefs to identify the province's top young talent. Who are the young chefs in B.C. worth watching?

Despite our calls across the province, all the insider answers pointed back to Vancouver.

Angus An of Maenam was quick to recognize David Gunawon as a force to watch. "Not only is he very driven, he's very hard-working, and very focused on what he needs to do," An told The Huffington Post B.C. "I watched his whole evolution, he worked with me a long time ago and saw him mature from a cook to a chef."

James Walt of Whistler's famed Araxi restaurant selected L'Abattoir chef Lee Cooper for his "interesting menu concept."

"He's a really good technical chef," Walt applauded, "He's under 30 and making a name for himself."

Thank you to An, Walt, Vikram Vij, Edward Tuson, Ned Bell, and Roger Sleiman for helping us compile the list below:

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Lucais Syme is the co-owner of La Quercia, a Kitsilano restaurant specializing in northern Italian cuisine that has redefined neighbourhood dining in Point Grey. With partner-in-crime, Adam Pegg, Syme opened La Pentola inside the OPUS Hotel Vancouver in early September. With a dish named, "Badly Cut Pasta," what's not to like?

Taryn Wa's white-hot (and delicious) Asian-inspired cuisine has pushed her career through a position as the sous chef on the second season of Channel M multicultural cooking show, "Fusion Fare" to the kitchen of multi-award winning Bistro Pastis. Wa's fearless style draws inspiration from her international travels and recognition of Vancouver as a multicultural source of culinary creativity.

Kristian Eligh is the chef de cuisine at Hawksworth Restaurant with over 10 years of culinary experience under his belt. He describes the menu he helped create as "contemporary in technique and presentation, a showcase of Canadian ingredients, and all encompassing of the ethnic diversity of our region."

Quang Dang just celebrated his first year as executive chef at West, one of Vancouver's finest restaurants. Raised in Calgary with Scottish and Vietnamese roots, Dang first dallied with an engineering degree before his part-time jobs in kitchens swayed him to jump ship and master the undefined grey area that is Canadian cuisine. His talents in the kitchen and aptitude for identifying and using a bounty of regional ingredients have earned him spots in international competitions worldwide.

Ex-West chef David Gunawan has created a menu for meat lovers at his new Wildebeest restaurant. Described as a "very creative chef," Gunawan worked with Maenam chef Angus An for years before he branched off this summer to open Gastown's newest wild-about-meat restaurant.

Sean Murray began cooking at age 12. His family's rule was "if you're staying home sick from school, you have to bake something for dinner." After international stints in Beijing and Costa Rica, Murray returned to YVR in 2011 to take over the kitchens of YEW Restaurant.

Brodie Swanson is the chef at Vancouver's aboriginal-owned and operated Salmon 'n Bannock Bistro. His menu is inspired from his Haida Nation roots. Swanson's mastery of traditional salmon preparation makes this under-the-radar restaurant a must-try for Coast Salish foodies.

Lee Cooper has been knocking out quite a reputation in Vancouver' restaurant scene. Cooper, the son of a man who owned and managed A&W restaurants on Vancouver Island, has been picking up critical acclaim after he opened L'Abattoir in Gastown.

Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay recently closed two of his restaurants in downtown Vancouver. "I quickly learned that opening a restaurant in the heart of Vancouver is something I should have done after building my business and expansion capital," he said. But restaurant or no restaurant, this chef is a notable talent to keep our eyes on to see where he pops up next.

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