Chef’s Corner: Kenta Takahashi, Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Vancouver

Chef Kenta Takahashi from Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar

By Roseline Victoria Vijayakumar

At Vancouver’s Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, chef Kenta Takahashi seamlessly combines his French culinary training with his Asian heritage to create a melting pot of exquisite desserts that captivate the senses. 

In his role as pastry chef, the Japanese-born chef takes desserts a step further by capturing traditional French fare and adding a sophisticated Japanese twist.

When asked what inspired him on his journey as a pastry chef, Takahashi turns wistful as he reminisces about the rich vanilla pastry cream puff he tried at pastry school. “That flavour and texture contrast changed how I see all food. It was all perfect in just one bite. I saw that cultures and histories are all connected with food and are always a part of people’s lives. I simply like eating food and desserts, but my core motivation and love of food are [rooted in] the background of food cultures.”

Takahashi attended Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka, Japan and his career steadily progressed from pastry school and French restaurants in Tokyo to a four-year tenure at Thierry in Vancouver and subsequently seven years at Boulevard. His flair hasn’t gone unnoticed, and he was crowned Canada’s Best Pastry Chef 2020 by Canada’s 100 Best.

His culinary style is a sweet merger based on classic-style desserts emphasizing a lighter texture, yet with an intensity of flavour. Aromas from flowers, herbs or tea create a unique essence in his desserts. 

“Most of the time, the influences and inspirations are not from the outside,” he says. “I find it in basic and classic and then ask myself how I want present it, which texture, taste, flavour, colour, impression I want and then shape all those things.”

Takahashi says the dessert menu at Boulevard caters to a North-American base and reflects a blend of French classic and modern, such as the Salted Sesame Praline Bar ($17), which was born out of the collaboration with Boulevard’s executive chef Alex Chen.

When asked about his greatest accomplishment, Takahashi nudges the conversation towards the growth of his team and says its progress is his proudest achievement. “I spend a lot of time teaching and training my staff directly, explaining why I made this dessert, how I get ideas, how to create, how to work.  I let my staff create their own dessert and encourage them to create their own recipe instead of taking a recipe from someone and just using it. They learn the basics; they learn how to use it properly and then I see them create good desserts. Some of them find great opportunities to step up their own careers and become chefs, create their own desserts and grow.”

Looking to the future, Takahashi envisions more collaborations with people both in and beyond the food industry, and he aims to extend opportunities to share culinary experiences. Additionally, he has plans to open a pastry shop beside the Boulevard and highlights his initiative of the Dessert Tasting Dinner with all five courses dedicated to desserts.

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