Tapestry at Wesbrook Village in Vancouver hired Executive Chef Shaughn Halls back in July. Shaughn has 19 years of experience in kitchens. This career was preceded by a love for home cooking as a kid and culinary school George Brown in Toronto immediately after high school. Shaughn’s leadership style is one of teamwork and humour. He seems to be fitting in very well with the community at Tapestry at Wesbrook Village. We sat down with Chef Shaughn to find out how his first few months transitioning from fine dining to retirement dining was going.
Tell us about your experience since you finished culinary school.
I had a mentor named Colin when I worked at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in 1995. From Colin I learned a traditional approach to cooking – based on his culinary glory days of the 1960’s in Europe. He really shaped my perspective moving forward. He never allowed me to take shortcuts in the kitchen. It was important to complete every step of every process. While it was sometimes frustrating, to this day I appreciate the valuable lesson it was.
I then worked at Pangaea – a “continental” style restaurant – in Toronto for nine and a half years with an eight month stint at Air Canada Centre during that time. I eventually became a sous chef at Pangia and I met my wife, who happens to be a pastry chef. I became executive chef at Crush Wine Bar after this then left after a year for the west coast!
Where did you land when you came to Vancouver?
I worked at a small 40 seat restaurant called Pair Bistro on West 10th for two years. This was a great place to learn about local BC food; we often used UBC Farm. While I was there, we won a 2008 Chef Meets Grape Peoples Choice Award. I then moved onto a position with Rogers Arena as a sous chef through the Olympics and most recently, I was the executive chef at the Italian Kitchen.
Why did you decide to make the change to retirement living from fine dining?
I was ready for a change. We have two young children and working for Tapestry has allowed me to have a consistent schedule getting me home to spend time with my family. It’s less stressful.
What are the key differences coming to retirement dining?
Slower pace and more space! At Tapestry I have lots of room in the kitchen to set-up effectively. I’m provided with the tools and equipment I need and if I want anything, I have the opportunity to have my requests seriously considered. With the adjusted pace I have time to focus on quality and menu options.
What’s your biggest kitchen pet peeve?
Unnecessary shortcuts! Shortcuts need to be earned.
What is your favorite kitchen tool/equipment?
Well I love my knives, but I also love the Robocoup – it’s a food processor
What’s your favorite restaurant in Vancouver?
Toshi Sushi on 16th at Main Street
What are the most challenging aspects of this job so far?
It’s taken some time to determine resident likes and dislikes and adjusting portion sizes. I’ve been talking to the residents to overcome these challenges. They are very passionate about their vegetables! They insist that they are treated properly. I’m hosting Tapestry’s first chef demonstration on our top floor kitchen this month and am focusing on vegetables.
What are the most rewarding aspects of this job?
I have lots of freedom and the changes I have implemented have been well received such as tapas in the pub, reduction of main menu items, and becoming a feature-driven restaurant. My time with the Italian Kitchen has come in handy – the pasta is very popular, particularly the spaghetti and meatballs.
So your kids have two chef parents. Are they little Vancouver foodies already?
My 5-year old daughter was eating spot prawns at 2 years old! She was so excited, she was ready to eat them right out of the bag. You can probably tell who the foodie kids are when they have blue cheese in their lunch kits at preschool and know that it’s best to eat it at room temperature.
What do you see yourself doing in the future with your career?
I’m very interested in photography. I would like to pursue food photography that is gritty and real.