Chef’s Corner: Chanthy Yen, Bacaro, Vancouver

Photo of Chanthy Yen of Bacaro cooking at restaurant

By Roseline Victoria Vijayakumar

Chef Chanthy Yen began his culinary journey at a very young age in his grandmother’s Windsor, Ont. kitchen and garden, where she spent most of her days cooking and gathering. 

A graduate of St. Claire College, Northwest Culinary Academy and Basque Culinary Centre, Yen says his love for food has always been spiritually intuitive and that “cooking in a restaurant seemed like a natural transition for me. I started my apprenticeship journey at quite a young age, and from there, I began to take on more opportunities.” 

His journey involved travelling the world to learn from acclaimed chefs, including chef Andoni Luis Aduriz at Mugaritz and chef Ferran Adrià at Bullipedia in Spain. Yen finally settled in Montreal, where he opened his first restaurant, Fieldstone (now closed), earning the Chef of the Year honours from Eater Montreal. 

Yen also served as executive chef at the British-style pub Parliament in Ottawa but during the pandemic, the restaurant temporarily closed, prompting Yen to pivot and launch a successful Cambodian street-food pop-up. Once pandemic restrictions eased, Yen re-located to Vancouver where he opened Nightshade, a vegan eatery that earned a Michelin Bib Gourmand. Adding to his accolades, in 2021 Yen was asked to be the personal chef to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a role which included overseeing family meals, state dinners and representing Canada at the Club des Chefs Summit in Madrid. 

Yen articulates his culinary approach with an emphasis on understanding the concept, philosophy and passion within and around each restaurant he joins. “This allows me to adjust my style accordingly. Having a relatively diverse portfolio, I’m able to work with people’s needs and help restaurants succeed.”

Currently, Yen infuses his global expertise into the Venetian-inspired, Michelin Recommended Bacaro, where he brings an affinity for Italian cuisine. “My first apprenticeship was at an Italian restaurant, where I was exposed to so many different ingredients and food styles. Taking on a Venetian concept seemed like a full-circle experience that I was really excited about. In preparation for the role, I travelled through the Veneto region of Italy, sampling regional fare whose ingredients and flavour combinations will heavily influence Bacaro’s re-vamped offerings.”

He says Bacaro’s menu will emphasize Venetian dining culture, including a focus on seafood, as well as Cicchetti (small bites) and an in-house mozzarella program. The dinner menu includes the Humboldt squid- white polenta, squid ink and marinated trout roe ($38) and Snow crab tagliolini (snow crab legs, sea asparagus, burrata, saffron olio, $42). Wine will also feature prominently, with regional varietals thoughtfully selected to complement the food.

Reflecting on a pivotal moment in his career, Yen recalls, “The first thing that came to mind would be celebrating with my team after winning The Bib Gourmand award by The Michelin Guide. As a cook, I loved collecting random issues of The Michelin Guides from all over the world. I also have a few first editions hidden away.”

Looking ahead, Yen says, “In the future, I would like to help make an impact on the Vancouver restaurant community by offering great food at a unique restaurant like Bacaro. I would like to see Bacaro on The Michelin Guide again and possibly win an award.”

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.