Farm to Table with Andrea Carlson

By Nikki Bayley

Cited as one of the key players of the city’s culinary scene, chef Andrea Carlson has been quietly shaping the way that Vancouverites eat for more than a decade. From the (now closed) C Restaurant and the Rain City Grill, to Sooke Harbour House and Bishop’s, Andrea has worked at some of the province’s most important restaurants, whose locavore seasonal menus helped to lay down the foundations of a more sustainable way of eating in B.C. and beyond. Now chef/co-owner at Burdock & Co. on Main Street, and the celebrated local community store/delicious noodle soup bar, Harvest Union, we spoke to Andrea to find out more.

Andrea

“The driving force behind Burdock & Co is to present farm to table food in a casual environment and bring what used to be a bit elitist to families and the neighbourhood at a more accessible price point. I wanted to use the same producers that I’ve used in the past, the relationship that you have with growers develops over years; you support them and you are conscientious about them, you basically manage your supply chain through loyalty. When you have these relationships with growers you can access this amazing food, support the food economy and give diners the best produce that they can try.”

With such an abundance of fresh produce in the Lower Mainland, what does a chef like Andrea look for when it comes to her suppliers?

“We really want to support urban farmers and social enterprises; people like Sole Food, who transform vacant space in the city into small farms and then provide training and jobs for people in the Downtown East Side community. That benefits everyone in Vancouver so much! Their produce changes seasonally, of course, but they have amazing greens, we use their kale which is really robust and fantastic in our noodle dishes. Their French breakfast radishes are amazing and we use them every spring. There are so many different suppliers – I love the corn from Urban Digs, for example.”

As the year shifts from season to season, there’s always something new and fresh to be excited by. “Corn is huge for me,” beams Andrea. “It’s so tasty and so versatile– you can use it as a dessert, raw, charred, it runs the whole gamut. Then there’s artichoke season, we get ours from Glen Valley in Abbotsford; we throw them over charcoal with wild sumac and serve them with a walnut brown butter sauce. So good. But hands down, the sunchoke is my favourite vegetable, I guess because of its versatility, you can roast it, or caramelize it, it has a wonderful sugar unlike many other root vegs, and an earthy sweetness and nuttiness to it that just sets it apart.”

Of course, anyone who preaches such a root to plate gospel naturally grows their own too; “we have a tiny little food garden next to the restaurant,” explains Andrea, “this year we grew a Japanese myoga ginger plant which we harvested in July which had a phenomenal taste. We grew some corn, but someone stole it! I guess you can’t get too attached. Right now we have begonias which have highly acidic petals that you can use in vinaigrettes and they have crazy bright colours!”

When asked why it’s important to cook this way, Andrea pauses, “you’re contributing to your own food security when you eat this way, but ultimately it’s almost selfish,” she confesses, “it’s so enjoyable. Everything that comes to you is practically pulsing with life energy! You can use the best, freshest produce with the most vitality and that is the most rewarding thing as a chef.“

Burdock & co
2702 Main St, Vancouver

Bishop’s
2183 West 4th Ave, Vancouver

Harvest Union
243 Union St, Vancouver