In the Kitchen With Wayne Kozinko, Hawksworth and Bel Café, Vancouver

Photo by Derek Ford

As pastry chef at Vancouver’s critically acclaimed fine-dining restaurants, Hawksworth and Bel Café, Wayne Kozinko aims to strike a balance between classic and modern with his culinary style. “Like the rest of the menu, the flavours are a bit all over the map,” Kozinko says of the influences shaping the desserts, sweets, breads and pastries he creates. “I wouldn’t say I follow the trends.”

The Edmonton-born chef knew from an early age that he was destined for a career in the kitchen. “I remember baking with my mom on the weekends — probably as young as five or six,” he says. “In high school, I was one of two guys in the [home-economics] class. I didn’t do so well in the sewing, but I did great in the cooking [portion] and I thought ‘maybe this is my future.’”

Kozinko graduated from North Island College’s Culinary Arts program and completed a culinary apprenticeship at Vancouver Community College before joining the team at Diva at the Met within the Metropolitan Hotel. After cooking savoury at Diva for a few years, a position opened up in the pastry kitchen and Kozinko threw his hat in the ring. “I’d always been interested in [pastry] and toyed around a little [with it] while I was doing savoury,” says Kozinko. “I always felt that’s where I would end up.”

Chocolatier Thomas Haas came on board soon after as Diva’s executive pastry chef, inspiring Kozinko to stay in the role longer than planned in order to learn from the renowned chef. Kozinko cites pastry-competition victories with Haas and his team, such as wins at the 2001 National Pastry Team Championships — where he took top honours in four categories — as some of the highlights of his career.

Kozinko then spent several years as pastry chef at Vancouver’s Yew in the Four Seasons Hotel, before taking the helm of the pastry kitchen at Hawksworth in 2011. “I’m really conscious of not under-doing the plates, but not over-doing them either,” Kozinko says, adding each dish typically incorporates four or five flavours at most.

He strives to keep the menu seasonal. “In the summer, it will always be different berries; later in the summer, it’s yellow stone fruits; into the fall, it’s apples, pears; and in the winter, it’s usually citrus, nuts and different types of chocolates,” he says of the menu’s ever-changing emphasis.

Kozinko likes to experiment with different textures and temperatures, as well as with adding savoury ingredients to his sweet dishes. The dessert menu at Hawksworth features spring-pea ice cream with matcha and lime ($14); crème fraîche with pistachio, rhubarb and strawberry ($14); and candy-cap ice cream with toasted white chocolate, toffee and walnut ($14).

Kozinko is now also overseeing the pastry team at Bel Café’s second location, which launched in June of this year. He says opening his own restaurant may be in the cards one day but, for now, he’s happy with the creativity his role at Hawksworth allows him.

Story by Jessica Huras

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