Chef Andrea Carlson of Burdock & Co in Vancouver Shares Her Story - West Coast Food

By Catherine Dunwoody

Anyone familiar with Vancouver’s Main Street eatery Burdock & Co knows Chef Andrea Carlson has a vision. And one that you can taste in every delicious bite. She sat down to share her story.

What was food like in your growing up household?
Andrea Carlson: Low key – we ate out a lot and I fended for myself often with frozen dinners.

Did you cook at home during your childhood?
Carlson: When I was 13, I picked up a copy of Craig Clairbourne’s New York Times Cookbook at the book store on a whim and started cooking Julia Child’s chocolate mousse recipe and others when we would have company over.

Where did you study culinary and when?
Carlson: I studied in Vancouver way back in the day at The Dubrulle Culinary School. It was the place to go for a less trade school approach.

Was Sooke Harbour House your first job?
Carlson: It was not my first job. I already had Star Anise under Adam Busby and C Restaurant under Rob Clark, which were the top-rated French and seafood restaurants in Vancouver at the time.
My partner Kevin and I had also created the Sunflour Bakery on Savary Island for a season before he started architecture school. I worked at Sooke Harbour House with for nearly a year with some greats like Edward Tuscon, Rhonda Viani, and Marc Andre Chocette. We created new menus everyday for our stations while at Sooke Harbour House – It was a really inspiring place – the gardens, the vibe was open and progressive towards food. Sinclair and Frederique had created what was Canada’s “Noma” well before eating locally was commonplace.

Image courtesy of Burdock & Co.

Can you be credited for the 100-Mile Menu?
Carlson: Yes we created the 100 mile menu while at Raincity Grill, inspired by the writings of James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith.

When were you executive chef at Bishops, and when did the awards happen?
Carlson: I started at Bishop’s in 2007 and was there for 4 years.  We won Vancouver Magazine’s Best Regional Restaurant award twice.

What was the most rewarding experience in your earlier days?
Carlson: Having Alain Passard (3 Michelin star chef) come for lunch unexpectedly (he was recommended to us by Marc-Andre, chef at Lumiere, who I had worked with at Sooke) while I was at Raincity nearly gave me a heart attack!

Tell me about your upcoming cookbook.
Carlson: The book is published by Appetite Random House, due out spring 2019 and focuses on Burdock & Co.

Do you have a signature dish?
Carlson: People love the buttermilk fried chicken with pickles.

What were your biggest challenges as a chef, especially a female in this industry?
Carlson: Vancouver’s staffing shortage is likely the biggest challenge these days – you can only spread yourself so thin.

Any advice for young women who aspire to be chefs or restaurateurs?
Carlson: Be true to your passions for food – whether it’s a style or cuisine and seek out opportunities to work with foods and people that inspire you. Never ever stick around toxic people or workplaces – life is too short and it will kill your creativity.

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