January 14, 2021 - Executive Chef Ken Nakano from Aura restaurant and the Inn at Laurel Point in the herbs and greens garden outside the hotel.  Don Denton photo

Cooking with fresh, seasonal, local food

A Q&A with Executive Chef Ken Nakano, Inn at Laurel Point

  • Feb. 26, 2021 8:30 a.m.

– 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.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

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