Takashi Harada began his culinary career at a Japanese restaurant in Richmond, B.C. when he was 17. Prior to that, he was smoking and salting salmon at his father’s fish-processing plant.
“As soon as I started working in the restaurant industry, I began to think of it as an escape from the fish-processing plant, which my dad wasn’t too happy about, but that was the start,” says Harada.
Soon after, he attended the Dubrulle Arts Institute in Vancouver while working as a dishwasher at La Belle Auberge (which has since closed), a fine-dining French restaurant in Lander, B.C. helmed by Bruno Marti. There, Harada was exposed to every aspect of the profession. It’s also where he tasted his first piece of foie gras.
“Chef Marti gave me a slice of hot foie gras with a port-wine sauce and, to this [day], no foie-gras dish has topped the lusciousness of that piece,” says Harada. “Bruno truly encouraged me — as well as the other kitchen staff — to take part in the Red-Seal program, which only grew my passion for the industry. I still remember the smell of the kitchen.”
After graduating, Harada gained international culinary experience working in destination hotels and resorts, including Four Seasons Vancouver under chef Ned Bell; Four Seasons Tokyo; Four Seasons Lanai (Hawaii); and Four Seasons Hualalai (Hawaii), where he rose through the ranks from sous chef to banquet chef de cuisine and ULU chef de cuisine. Eventually, he returned to Canada as executive sous chef at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge before assuming the role of executive chef at The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge at The Josie Hotel, Autograph Collection in Rossland, B.C.
“With the many stops I’ve had in my culinary journey, I learned the importance of staying true to the terroir,” says Harada. “Each ingredient has such a unique taste and story, so it’s up to the chef to create a dish that complements the ingredient.”
The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge offers views of both the mountainside and the glass-walled kitchen, a seasonal food menu and a locally inspired drink menu. Among the standout menu items are crispy calamari with garlic aioli and charred lemon ($20); 63 Acres skirt steak served with crispy onion, black-pepper jam, baby potatoes and heirloom carrots ($40); and almond-crusted halibut, made with beurre blanc, leeks, Cipollini (baby onions) and fennel ($42). Additionally, Harada oversees culinary for banquets, events and in-room dining at the hotel.
Heavily influenced by classic French cuisine, Harada describes his culinary style as a “mix of everything [he’s learned] while staying true to the area [he’s in].” Over the years, he has grown more comfortable expressing his heritage through Asian cuisines. With each dish, Harada “incorporates an element of surprise and an aspect of culinary sensation.”
For the last several months, Harada has been settling into his new role at The Josie Hotel. He looks forward to honing his creativity, guiding his team and introducing new dishes to add value to the restaurant.
“I hope to make The Velvet Restaurant and Lounge a place for all occasions for locals and [visitors] alike, featuring products from the Kootenays,” says Harada. “I also want to build on the connection that the hotel restaurant has made with the community. Personally, I’m looking forward to exploring the area and enjoy the skiing on RED during the winter season with my family.”
BY NICOLE DI TOMASSO