Food has always been at the centre of chef Brian Ng’s world. In fact, the chef has always used it to nurture and cement bonds between family and friends. That’s no surprise given his parents constantly encouraged him to be curious about food and to open his palate to new flavours and textures. At age 11, he was exposed to the inner workings of a kitchen in his family’s café in the Yukon. “I was already buttering toast and burning the eggs,” he quips. Although he didn’t know it then, Ng was already building the foundation that would eventually lead him to become a chef.
At 14 years old, Ng’s passion for food led him to work in a local Greek/Italian restaurant in town, where he started as a dishwasher and learned about basic prep, as well as how to cook pasta, sauces, steaks, and calamari. Still, he viewed cooking as a hobby rather than a career.
After high school, Ng took a break from his post-secondary studies to travel. While rock climbing in Thailand, he met a couple of gastronomists who introduced him to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, a turning point that solidified Ng’s choice to re-ignite his aspirations of becoming a chef. “I grew up watching Bourdain on the Discovery Channel and thought it would be cool to be a chef, but it was just a dream. It wasn’t until I read his book that I seriously thought about making this dream a reality.”
In 2014, Ng and co-partners Andrew Seymour and Eddie Rideout created a catering business. Through hard work, trial and error, the business’ success led to the opening of The Wayfarer Oyster House in 2018. Located next to the Historical Shipyards Park and the Yukon River, the restaurant, which is located inside the local craft brewery, Polarity Brewing, made Air Canada’s enRoute 2019 Best New Restaurants list just one year later.
The restaurant has earned recognition through Ng’s innovative, globally influenced modern dishes with an Asian twist. Menu items follow the seasons using locally sourced ingredients with mainstay signature favourites such as his Sablefish collars ($14). “We take the Sablefish collars and marinate them in many Japanese flavours of soy, sake, mirin, sugar, salt, ginger, greens, and garlic,” explains Ng. “We then roast it in the oven and charcoal it (skin side) to create a smoky flavour and brush it with Maple syrup, infused with miso and serve it with some pickles on the side.”
A spring seasonal favourite is Ng’s Torch Albacore Tuna ($21), served in an aromatic coconut broth with ginger and lemongrass. “It reminds you of a Thai coconut soup (Tom Kha), but it’s more aromatic with warm spices like star anise, coriander, black cardamon, and a bit of cumin. It’s served with crispy pop rice and chilli oil for some heat,” Ng states.
Chef Ng has come a long way from burning eggs in his family’s café kitchen. He’s created a unique concept with his menu variations at The Wayfarer Oyster House. Ng likens himself to a Swiss Army Knife, saying “he’d like to be a [jack of all trades but] master of none — constantly re-inventing, improving upon, moving forward, and trying new things when it comes to food.”
He has plans to expand the business and further develop his skills as a chef. “I’d love to take a work vacation and establish a few chef friends across countries. Sometimes you need to get out of your bubble and be somewhere else to light a fire under you and absorb different ways of thinking and learning.”
BY SUZANNE CHIN-LOY